Daniel Eran Dilger
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Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain

Daniel Eran Dilger
While Microsoft and the John McCain presidential campaign might not share many political views, there are striking similarities on how both advertise and promote their respective products. Here’s ten parallels between the two that demand attention.

1) Trying to trick unsatisfied buyers by promoting the exact same thing under a new name.

Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment attempted to trick users unsatisfied with Windows Vista by showing them a brief demo of a “new operating system” that was in fact, Vista in a brown box labeled Windows Mojave. Microsoft carefully avoided drawing any attention to the real problems in Vista that users are actually complaining about.

The McCain “change” campaign insists it will shake up Washington by promoting new wars, doing nothing to protect American jobs, and only lowering taxes on the ultra rich. That’s what Bush did, resulting in massive debt related to an unnecessary war, corporate loopholes that encourage businesses to take jobs outside of the US, and economic crisis for the majority of working and middle class Americans.

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2) Claiming to compete well against itself.

Microsoft promoted Windows XP as being safe and reliable, despite its security malware crisis. Windows Vista was introduced as being much more safe and reliable than Windows XP, which Microsoft now describes as having serious problems. The company is now beginning to promote Windows 7, due around 2010, as being the solution to serious problems in Vista. Each is described as a “major rewrite.”

In 2000, Bush campaigned on a morality platform. In 2004, Bush campaigned on a platform of keeping the US safe after starting a war on false premise and failing to track down and capture 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. Now, in 2008, McCain is campaigning to start new wars and solve serious problems that involve a “major rewrite” of Washington politics, without articulating how doing the same things will solve past problems or change anything.

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3) Presenting a media darling that can’t do more than recite “me too” promises.

After Microsoft’s PlaysForSure was badly humiliated by the iPod, Microsoft pulled out a copycat device and assured pundits that the new device would challenge Apple’s market share. However, while the new product gained a disproportional amount of media attention because it came from Microsoft, it fell short on specifics and users weren’t told about its actual features until it started shipping. Disappointed users were assured it would improve, but it really never did, and tanked in the market.

After McCain’s campaign was badly humiliated by Barack Obama, McCain pulled out a copycat device and assured pundits that his pick for Vice President would challenge Obama’s popularity. However, while Sarah Palin gained a disproportional amount of media attention, she has fell short on specifics and citizens haven’t been told about her actual positions. They are assured she will improve, but there’s really no reason for thinking she won’t tank, as a candidate, a potential vice president, or in the role of president of the US.

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4) Pretending to play the role of an underdog outsider while actually being an authority with monopoly control

While Microsoft exercises monopoly control over the PC market and has so little effective competition that it can charge whatever it wants for its software, it portrays itself as a scrappy underdog in markets it still trying to monopolize, including video games, music DRM, mobile phones, and audio players. Both PlaysForSure and its new solo MP3 player were marketed as “alternative choice” products that did their own thing, despite really being more of the same failed Microsoft Windows Media DRM.

While the Republicans exercise enough control over the three branches of US Government and have so little effective competition that they can change whatever they want, McCain portrays his party’s campaign as a scrappy underdog in a race to hold onto executive power. Both Bush and the new McCain have been marketed as “alternative choice” candidates who do their own thing despite pushing more of the same failed strategies for a government that only serves foreign interests and the ultra rich.

5) Childishly pretending to be offended by the truth …

Microsoft’s executives have come unglued in phony outrage about Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaigns, which accurately portray Vista as having issues related to hardware and software compatibility, malware problems, and poor performance.

McCain’s campaign has come unglued in phony outrage about Obama’s comment that McCain’s policies amounted to “lipstick on a pig” or “old fish in a piece of paper called change,” claiming that Obama was referencing his running mate, who had earlier referred to herself as a pitbull wearing lipstick. McCain used the same expression in criticizing Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan.

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6) … while shamelessly advertising misinformation and outright lies.

Microsoft has frequently cited false comparisons of Mac OS X Leopard’s vulnerability statistics with numbers for Windows Vista, while being fully aware that those numbers do not reflect reality and do not even serve to compare similar code. Microsoft’s executives have also flat out lied about the company’s market share, with CEO Steve Ballmer casually citing 20% to 25% of the market for its failed MP3 player, a product that really grabbed less than 5% of the market.

McCain has frequently cited false comparisons of Obama’s policies, implying his opponent wants to teach explicit sex to kindergarten classes. McCain flat out lied in misrepresenting Obama’s tax proposals as raising taxes, when in fact they would lower taxes for the majority of Americans, and only increase taxes for those making more than a quarter million annually. Obama would actually lower more taxes for more Americans more significantly than McCain.


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7) Appeals to uninformed audiences who don’t even realize that what they’re celebrating is not in their own best interests.

Microsoft promotes its products to the enterprise and tech enthusiasts, the very people who suffer the most from picking a platform saturated in security flaws and indifferent to their needs. Yet these victims of Microsoft’s monopoly control wholeheartedly support the company and willfully submit to a tech monoculture because they are duped by a company who does not share their interests.

McCain promotes his campaign to soccer moms and rural audiences, the very people who will suffer the most from picking a platform that really only represents the needs of the ultra rich. McCain says he will lower taxes, but in reality, “the McCain plan would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers, offering two new massive tax cuts for corporations and delivering 58 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The Bush tax cuts provide 31 percent of their benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.”

8) Calls opponents “elitist and expensive,” while being far more elitist and expensive.

Microsoft says Macs are expensive without pointing out that Macs save users wasted time cleaning up problems and money spent on anti-malware cleanup. Ballmer described the iPhone as being the most expensive phone ever, despite the far more expensive Windows Mobile models. And the company calls Linux expensive in total cost of ownership and a socialist “cancer” that hurts businesses, despite the fact that Linux actually helps get the most expensive spending under control by pulling expensive software licensing out of the server room.

McCain says Obama will raise taxes without pointing out that Obama will actually cut takes for most Americans apart from the most wealthy. McCain refers to liberals as big spenders, despite the vast spending of his own party that has sent the nation into massive debt, and the trail of massive debt that his running mate left behind as small town mayor. He says Obama’s plans will be expensive and McCain’s supporters describe them as a socialist cancer that hurts business, but Obama will actually help get the most expensive spending under control by pulling the military out of occupation of Iraq, a nation with a huge cash surplus to defend itself.

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9) Can’t function on the web.

Microsoft’s efforts on desktop email and web have been plagued with security problems, and it has been unable to deliver usable mobile web and email products. In just a few months, Apple’s new iPhone surpassed the entire installed base of a half decade of Windows Mobile devices in actual web browser use.

McCain’s efforts with desktop email and web have been plagued with a lack of interest in learning how to use modern communication and information tools. His campaign was surpassed by Obama, who raised grassroots support for his campaign from individuals, rather than corporate sources who will demand favors in return.

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10) Writing off an individual who wants to change the world as being a “celebrity…”


…then attempting to become a celebrity without changing anything.


Microsoft and McCain: More of the Same.

Note that this compairson is not meant to suggest Microsoft agrees with McCain in political issues. Microsoft has actually pulled its funding from the Republicans it has been primarily courting since 2000, and has recently been putting its cash almost exclusively behind Democrats, no doubt because it sees Obama winning.

It also shouldn’t be taken to suggest approval of Microsoft by McCain’s campaign, nor disapproval of Linux or Apple products by McCain. In fact, readers have forwarded in evidence that McCain’s campaign uses Macs and Apple’s Keynote software to publish its presentations.

The only real commonality is that neither Microsoft nor McCain is served by telling the truth, because they really have nothing to offer. And so they desperately try to copy those who are successful, downplay reality with distractions, and outright attack the truth with blatant lies.

They can only get away with it if Americans keep buying it.

Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech
What You Expected, What You Got

This is now:

That was then:

Don’t let it happen again.

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  • balrob

    I like the Mac commentary, and thanks for it Dan- since the topic of today is politics, here’s my 2c.

    I am not American and will not be voting, but I do live in America – and watch and listen to the debates with interest.

    As someone who has had the privilege of living and working in 4 countries, I can say that the above political debate could easily be mistaken for one from many other countries – especially comments about tax, and socialism, and lying, and government spending etc etc. These are universal themes.

    However, I haven’t seen Creationism in political debate in other countries. It seems ironic that although the constitution separates church from state (which was wise ahead of it’s time) the US political process is filled with references to God (and God’s will, and God bless America, and in God we trust etc) and praying and creationism etc. You would think that there would be a way to insist that members of government be elected based on their stated goals & policies (tempered by past behaviors of course) and that any reference to God should rule them out of contention – since if one candidate mentions God, then they will all feel they have to otherwise religious groups might not vote for them – and then there is no longer a separation between church & state … just a thought.
    If there is a God – would it not be the same God for all people on earth. Why would God bless you in particular and not everyone else ? Don’t worry – many countries have fallen into this trap with their “God bless [insert your country here]” requests. It seems to me that unless you are saying “God bless all men”, you are effectively asking for God to prefer you to everyone else …

    “Socialism” seems to brought up quite a bit too – everywhere in the world. Many, mostly liberal/democratic/labour governments are accused of it. Pure Socialism seems to be the name for the extreme form of a philosophy – which I dare say that only a few nut jobs would espouse. However, less extreme forms exist in every government – it’s just a matter of degree. Even the US is “socialist” to a certain degree (and most people are happy with it, it seems to me). Example: State governments provide free education up to the age of about 18. They collect taxes, and use it to build schools, hire teachers, create a curriculum etc. Is this not a form socialism ? Private schools exist too – but Public Schools ensure that basic education is guaranteed to all (well, that’s the theory) – is this not good (especially given that you always have the choice of private)?. What about roading, water supply & sewerage – once again paid for and owned by “everyone”. Medicare & Medicaid – are social back stops, so another piece of socialsim. It’s funny that no one says Socialist schooling, they say Public Schools – where-as any suggestion that the Govt get involved in providing healthcare is called Socialism.
    So, it seems to me that if the degree of socialism is put on a scale from 1 to 10, and the US is (for example) a 4 – then the political debate is about whether it will move between 3.5 and 4.5. Collecting a bit more, or a bit less tax is the debate of every election but doesn’t result in significantly more socialism.

    Change is neither good or bad, but it is essential … and inevitable. Making it a campaign slogan is kind of reflective of the how politicians are forced to address the lowest common denominator. It says nothing, but people scream and clap. How sad.

  • GwMac


    Just a few points in rebuttal. First a J.D. is far from a PhD in law, I should know since I have a law degree. A PhD. requires many additional years of classes as well as a dissertation. A law degree is more like a Masters degree regardless of the “Doctor” in the degree. That is irrelevant however since you are comparing Palin’s (VP candidate ) educational credentials against Obama’s (presidential candidate). Whether you despise McCain or not, surely you would agree he is at least qualified regardless of what you think about Gov. Palin.

    Biden is certainly far from perfect. Over the past 20 years, MBNA has been Biden’s single largest contributor. Biden’s son Hunter was hired out of law school by MBNA and later worked as a lobbyist for the company. He also supported he 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy. Bank lobbyist is even have a expression, “Never leave Washington without him”

    Why was my leaning towards Hillary a joke? I was only a very reluctant supporter because she was the least of the worst. Much like the decision I am left with between McCain and Obama. And your white football player analogy was really uncalled for as it would appear you are bringing racism into my decision. In any case, as I said before I will reserve my decision until after the debates, or did you miss that part?

    I also never said you are not allowed to write your political views. In fact I clearly stated you are allowed to write whatever the muses inspire you to pen. I simply said that it was probably not a wise move since there is a good chance that you offended around 50% of your Mac readership that might support McCain. You are clearly a very intelligent person and I respect your right to express your views. I was just pointing out a likely repercussion of venturing into political discourse on a Mac blog.

    In terms of my Apple comments, I just meant that I don’t think I have ever read an article where you disagreed with Apple. Granted I have not read all your articles, but you are certainly one of the very few that thought the crippled Apple TV was revolutionary. I also strongly disagree with your position on the podcast application as do most of your readers judging from the comments. The only reason I even said that is because like you I strongly support Apple and want them to succeed. Were you to focus your keen insight on their shortcomings, someone in Cupertino might even take notice. That is all I meant, it was not intended as a slight.

    Although we all live in a vacuum to a certain degree, I like to think I am pretty open minded. But this article I am afraid was about as good an idea as Michael Jordan’s decision to try baseball after he retired.

  • RobertR

    Daniel, I know this is your forum, but it’s your integrity, too — so why don’t you demonstrate some by not re-editing my post to strike out points you disagree with. Can your arguments stand on their own merits, or do you have to go back and edit mine?

    Daniel: “Is the best you can do to associate Obama with ACORN complaints from two years ago…”

    Ummm, my first link is from Sunday. And you want to go back eight years to 2000.

    Daniel: “Guess why the Republicans don’t want middle class americans who lost their home from being able to vote?”

    You’re showing your naiveté again. You associate Republicans with money and so you automatically blame them for banking problems. But the reality is quite a bit more complex. For example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac engaged in massive lobbying, and who do you think took more of their money — Republicans or Democrats? Obama or McCain?

    Answer: Democrats collected 33% more at the trough than Republicans, and in under four years, Obama helped himself to SIX TIMES MORE questionable $$$ than John McCain did in 19 years.


    If you’re wondering why Obama doesn’t rail against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — well, now you know.

    Hope this helped…

  • glenngrafton

    With Daniel’s recent political bent – leaving the comfort and security of what he does so well with technology I came to think of a situation in our own family.

    Every year we have a family reunion at a small Pennsylvania amusement park in central PA. I have gone to them since I was a kid. My dad started our company and is the poster child for what an entrepreneur is – mortgaged the house with 2 kids to start a business and is now financially secure after over 44 years of 6 day work weeks.

    Anyway at these family reunions we would always end up talking with a cousin. He is a guy who studied art. He rose through academia and went on to be a college professor. I recall as a teenager my dad talking with my cousin at the reunions. They were on opposite polls both politically and philosophically. My dad the conservative, my cousin the typical liberal college professor with a Phd.

    The interesting thing that happened was that my cousin decided to leave teaching . His artistic abilities had some serious commercial demand. He did illustrations for National Geographic, designed books, fabrics and his work was bringing top dollar.

    My point is this (Daniel). Once he left the comfort of a tenured university position and went into business for himself I noticed a drastic change.

    My cousin was starting to agree with my dad. He complained about the high tax rates. He complained about how much the government intruded into him trying to make a living.

    The difference was that my cousin exchanged the idealistic viewpoints of what he could hold as a professor with the reality of what needed to be done to run a business and make a profit.

    What does that have to do with this article? My point is that there is often a dis-connect with politicians, the media and academia with the difference between idealistic viewpoints and reality.

    Case in point. A friend of mine from high school was working at the local weekly newspaper doing the layouts for the paper. He came to our weekly Mac user group meetings. His dad died. The ownership of the paper was divided between his dad and a couple other relatives.

    In order to pay the estate taxes the newspaper was sold to a larger publisher. The paper I get every Wed. now is not the same. My friend now has moved on to a new job several years ago as a pilot for a news choper.

    The family owned paper is done. The flavor of the news has changed and a local newspaper that had been in operation for over 100 years is being run from a store front next to a pizza parlor – much of the news from other areas.

    Why is that? These folks paid their payroll taxes, the state sales taxes, the corporate income taxes and their own taxes. At the end of the day when my friends dad died our Federal Government was there with their hand held out wanting a portion of the value of the company my friends dad owned.

    That my friend is the reality of the death tax. You pay taxes your whole life on everything you buy and earn. Once you die the Federal government wants to still take a portion of it.

    McCain is in favor of minimiaing that – O’Bama is not.

    It’s not as clear cut as you might think when you get down to the family and community level as outlined above where lives and long standing companies are forced to change and close.

    You the one reading this and Danile may think you are unaffected by this. If at some point you start a business, are married and have kids and at the later stages of your life the reality hits that the Federal Government wants to get an additional “cut” of the value of what you spent your life creating you very well may have a different opnion.

    I realize that a single person sitting in an apartment in the Bay Area can have an entirely different view point on things since they are not affected. Get married, have some kids, start a business, spend 30-40 years of your life creating a business and then talk to me about why the estate taxes are fine the way the democrats want to roll them back/

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