Many Microsoft product users have battled blue screens, countless error codes, and any number of other operating system and software problems for more than twenty years. In just the past few months these customers ran into some issues when Windows 8 was updated to Windows 8.1. (I experienced this first hand, by the way.) At times it seems like the problems are never ending.
Many of those same Microsoft customers have, from a distance, admired Apple Computers and that company’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011. The way Jobs pushed his colleagues to connect the Apple “brand” with innovation and quality no doubt led many Microsoft product users to feel jealous.
To learn more about Apple Computer and Steve Jobs, last year I took the time to read Walter Isaacson’s 650 page biography of the iconic business leader. Steve Jobs had “issues” to be sure — he was famously rude, callous, and short tempered. But the personal matters weren’t what interested me. As someone who has been frustrated with the Republican Party and the conservative movement for thirty years, I read the Isaacson book because I wanted to learn more about how Microsoft’s inferior computers outsold Apple’s superior computers — and by a wide margin.
The political parallel isn’t perfect but it is close enough — the inferior product outsells the superior product. Conservatives offer policies that have been proven to work, while liberals do the opposite. Yet government today at all levels is dominated by failed liberal policies just as most computers in the country run the often troublesome Microsoft operating system.
Republicans’ and conservatives’ policy successes have come mostly in the form of running liberal programs cheaper or limiting government just enough to experience better economic growth. How often have you known a big government “Great Society” type program to be truly reformed? The only one I’m aware of is the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 — and the Obama Administration has undone much of that.
So liberal Democrats, like Microsoft, wind up winning despite the governmental equivalent of blue screens and error codes. Remember the best-selling software “First Aid for [Microsoft] Windows”? As soon as Microsoft issued a new operating system in the 1990s it seemed as if the “First Aid” software was your next purchase to fix the bugs. The Obamacare website debacle has a beautiful side to it for me personally since it connected a liberal government policy failure with a computer software failure.
Why did Apple sales fall behind Microsoft’s despite Apple’s superior quality? Unlike Microsoft, which licensed its products to many manufacturers, Apple chose not to and insisted on “end-to-end integration.” Whereas Microsoft’s operating system and software was sold on computer brands like Dell, Packard Bell, and Gateway, Apple kept almost everything in-house. Apple manufactured the computer case, the operating system, and most of the software. Microsoft’s approach gave it a price advantage as well, and the company effectively sold to big customers like businesses and governments.
Why have the Republican Party and the conservative movement failed to get traction in the public policy arena? Many of us thought the “revolution” Ronald Reagan started in the 1980s would start to gain strength after his presidency. Instead, Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, put an end to it rather quickly during a single term.
In 1994 Newt Gingrich engineered a GOP takeover of the U.S. House and there were some limited successes, including putting somewhat of a check on the liberal Clinton Administration’s rate of spending. When George W. Bush won the White House in 2000, many thought what Reagan began might be re-started. Anyone thinking that quickly realized Bush Jr. was going to govern much more closely to Bush Sr. than Reagan.
Why didn’t the Bushes take a conservative path? Why didn’t Republican in the U.S. Congress have more success? I’d argue that it was a combination of a lack of conviction in the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution on one hand, and gross incompetence on the other — especially when it came to how the political right failed to fight in the information war.
Let’s continue this next time — Microsoft’s market share victory isn’t the end of the story.
(Updated version. First published November 2013)