I started this interesting novel by Douglas Coupland. The book is entitled Microserfs and it manifests Geek culture by depicting the lives of several coders who work for the software giant in Redmond. Along with the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, in which one can see the origins of Microsoft, this book has given me a lot to think about...and I am only on page 40!
The novel shows how MS employees developed a certain "Microsoft culture" that happens to be very interesting. Of course, corporate culture is nothing new, but there are certain factors that acquire an undeniable notoriousness (not to mention a somewhat prophetic glow) when one considers that the book describes the reality of the 90's.
The first factor that I saw is the omnipresent figure of Bill Gates (B-B-B-B-B-B-I-L-L!) that gravitates in the minds of the characters and determines their motivations and actions: They walk in certain way if they believe that B-B-B-B-I-L-L is watching them; Bill's biomass becomes a separate category on MS Campus (19% humans, 0.003% Bill), and they feel both depressed and honored when they get a scolding email from him, to illustrate. This made me think about what Microsoft is today, a feudal land without the lord everyone admired.
I must admit that the leadership of Bill Gates has turned him into a mythical creature, just like a unicorn or a pegasus. True, there are tons of Gates jokes around, but, in general, I get the impression that Gates is treated kindly. I mean, he is caricaturized and everything, but his eternal Geek aura has protected him from vicious graphic representations, even after the disastrous release of Windows ME (Millennium Edition, jokingly nicknamed "Mistake Edition"). I understand that the last Windows project he was involved in was Windows XP, released in 2001 after he retired. Therefore, Windows XP vindicated his honor and he left the company in triumph.
Microsoft is in now under the leadership of Steve Ballmer. Microserfs deals with Ballmer as a rather second-class respect figure. Once again, the prediction became true. Ballmer's first OS was... yes, you guessed it: VISTA! Accordingly, Ballmer's image as a leader has eroded terribly. You don't believe me? Run a quick search of videos under "Steve Ballmer" in Youtube and you will understand. He is depicted as a rather laughable, tempestuous, and big-mouthed version of the Cobra corporate twins in the G.I.JOE cartoon series, Xamot and Tomax. Nobody would say with reverence "B-B-B-B-B-B-allmer!" Judging from popular depiction, when referring to Ballmer, people are more prone to saying "B--b-b-ozo!" Plus, the use of the first name does not help him, either. When one says "STEVE" in the computer world, the image that is conjured is that of Apple's Steve JOBS!
No wonder why Linux is becoming more popular under Ballmer's dinasty.