At the End of the Day


Microsoft is the Tetrapak of software

“We’ve delivered your order,” Skype told me last  night. I hadn’t ‘ordered’ anything and so – in the spirit of all those of us who long ago realised that every ISP is full of old cock – I ignored it.

“We’ve cancelled your order,” Skype said this morning. Right, I thought, they cancelled something I never bought in the first place. So we were even.

But I couldn’t help notice the bright, bold blue type below this news saying, “To find out why we have been unable to maintain your Skype account, please follow this link”.

So: my non-existent, cancelled order had morphed into me being excluded from Skype. Who had I offended this time?

The answer was “nobody”. Well, that is, I had offended someone (obviously) because I offend a roughly equal number of socialists, neoliberals, Islamics, globalists, politicians, civil servants, weather forecasters and pc morons every day. But none  of them had requested I be put in the Skype sin-bin.

“The credit card you’ve been using is no longer active,” the pinched goblins at Skype asserted. So I took out the card, and used it manually to refill my Skype allowance which, up until then, had been happening automatically.

It worked first time.

On May 10th 2011 – a date that will live in infamy – Skype was acquired by Microsoft for an eye-popping $8.5 billion. The founders of Skype – for whom I have nothing but admiration – scooped up the cash and went off to work with great success in other sectors.

Microsoft, by contrast, stayed on board to turn Skype into a pile of steaming excrement – a development that was entirely predictable given this truly abysmal company’s inability to separate arse from elbow, up from down, or even completion from cancellation. By the time BillGateshe left the organisation, Bill Gates (left) had trousered sixty-four billion bucks: this was his obscene reward for creating head injuries to millions of desperate pc users, those sad victims of his risible software who’d bashed their fragile craniums against very hard screens in frustration.  Poor souls, they could no longer cope with screen panels that observed, ‘A major error has occurred’, ‘Something is not right’, and even ‘Microsoft Word has had to close’ – as if it might be a bloody bank holiday rather than software unfit for purpose.

rausingBefore Microsoft, I always thought that the inventor of the Tetra Pak, Ruben Rausing (left) held the undisputed heavyweight title for Most Riches from Least Functionality. Rausing – a neutral Swede who registered his patent in 1944 as the Allies and the Nazis were knocking seven bells out of each other on the Western Front – eventually went on to amass a fortune worth £5.4billion – far more in present-day terms than Gates.

Ruben’s invention replaced the non-spill and recyclable glass bottle of liquid with a 3,000 year degrading-period format of plastic-coated paper that spilled all liquids everywhere within seconds of being opened and poured.

The nature of the liquid was of no consequence: milk, orange juice, strawberry smoothie or yoghurt, a Tetrapak required only the separation of the membranes at the top to produce a pouring experience inseparable from multi-directional incontinence. An entire industry of kitchen towels was born on the back of the Tetrapak’s ability to miss any receptacle at which it was aimed.

Eventually, the denial ended….and the whole point of this “convenience” pack was held up to the light of examination by the insertion of a plastic neck where the origami puzzle had been. Since when, glass bottles have – despite this improvement – continued to go from strength to strength.

But somebody up there decided to equalise the scales of good fortune, because the Rausing dynasty became ever after cursed. Death and disaster culminated in the billionaire’s son Hans Christian and his wife being arrested for possessing crack cocaine and heroin. Even worse, Prince Charles described him as “one very special philanthropist”. That was, surely, the ultimate  kiss of death.

But Bill Gates shows no sign at all of being similarly disadvantaged. On the contrary, he has a net worth of approximately $79.4 billion. Yup, today Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is the wealthiest person in the world.

I could say that Mr Gates’s experience is exemplary; but that word suggests something to aspire to, whereas Billy the Kid is really an example of how one really can fool all the people all of the time. Abe Lincoln was just as mistaken about that as he was in his decision to attend a second-rate play and get assassinated.

Just think of it like this: Gates became the richest man in the world by inventing a software operating system whose flaws drove most of the rest of the human race mad, helped bankrupt the NHS, perhaps caused a million strokes….and helped give the Russians a massive lead in cyber warfare.

I truly do not see Bill Gates as an evil man: he has a nice wife and three kids, and even if they do live on an estate where you need an internet phone to call everyone in for dinner, it is perfectly obvious that he does not bear the human race any ill-will. He’s just a bit of a pillock. How else can one explain this, one of his favourite mantras:

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

Yesterday at The Slog: Partying like it was 1929