Salon 21st | Microsoft on Microsoft

Joachim Feise (
Sat, 19 Dec 1998 08:02:43 -0800

Why doesn't this surprise me???

Microsoft on Microsoft
------ How does the software giant spin its
own history in its reference products?

BY KARLIN LILLINGTON | Back in 1991, Gore
Vidal declared: "The corporate grip on opinion
in the United States is one of the wonders of
the Western world. No first world country has
ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its
media all objectivity -- much less dissent."

That quotation can be found, ironically and
conveniently enough, on Microsoft's
Bookshelf 98 CD-ROM, a reference collection
packed with 10 works including a dictionary,
thesaurus, encyclopedia, atlas and a curious
work called the People's Chronology -- "a
concise chronicle of world events from 3
million B.C. to 1997, and the people who
shaped them."
In contrast, Microsoft rivals IBM and Sun
Microsystems have Encarta entries that end
abruptly in -- believe it or not -- mid-1993.
Surely, if Microsoft's entry can take us within
months of the release of the current edition of
Encarta, some attempt could have been made
to record what two of the foremost technology
companies in this industry of blisteringly fast
developments were doing over the past five
years, during which some minor events -- like
the rise of the Internet -- took place.

As it is, IBM's entry concludes with Big Blue's
early '90s miseries -- its 40,000-plus job
losses, its cut in stock dividends, its
management and CEO resignations.
Meanwhile, Sun gets a meager 200 or so
words and, in an otherwise tech-savvy article,
there's nary a word about Sun's phenomenal
success in the Internet server market or its
development of Java, with the continuing
threat that poses to Microsoft. Apple, though,
gets a lengthy and cheerful entry bringing us
right up to summer of 1998 and the return of
Steve Jobs to the Apple fold. Interestingly, the
Microsoft investment in Apple isn't mentioned.