Thursday, June 28, 2001

The Microsoft Interview

Today's Microsoft ruling reminded me of a story someone told me about a job interview he had at Microsoft. This was circa 1992. During the interview, they asked him a number of questions to determine whether he was clever enough to work there. One of them was, "Why is there no eject button on VCR remote controls?" He was proud of himself for knowing the answer. "Because if you're going to eject a tape, you're going to have to get up anyway to do anything with it, so it's unnecessary." Microsoft was pleased with his quick-wittedness, and he got the job.

Two things bothered me about this question and expected answer. One, there are VCR remote controls with eject buttons. (My parents had one at the time, and I thought it was great.) Two, there are valid reasons to want to eject a tape without wanting getting up. For example, you may have just taped something really good that you want to be sure not to tape over accidentally. Eject the tape, and your chances of doing that drop. Also, many VCRs take several seconds to eject a tape (I don't know, maybe they're checking to make sure they're not playing it at the time). By ejecting the tape from the comfort of your seat, it'll be all ready to put away when you get up there.

This story, to my mind, foreshadows a lot of Microsoft's behavior, in the courtroom or in the marketplace. They have the twin attitudes of "We're right, regardless of reality" and "We know what's best for the consumer." That's what makes a lot of their software annoying to use, despite the neat stuff it sometimes contains.

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