Forbes discusses deterring the rich: In Finland, a man who made 7 million euros per year was given a traffic ticket for 170,000 euros. The expected 487,000,000 euro fine to be levied on Microsoft, while a whopping sum to you and me, works out to the same ratio: 1 week’s pay.
That reminds me of a story: the first time I met Bill Gates was when Microsoft was just about to launch their first C++ compiler. More importantly, they were locked in a very dramatic battle with Borland for the hearts and minds of developers (a battle every bit as heartfelt as the current Windows/Linux battle). I knew that the next day (literally) Microsoft was going to announce their C++ compiler, and it was going to look terrible beside Borland’s just-that-day unveiled 2nd or 3rd generation compiler, which had a Windows IDE.
Microsoft had won the Jolt for Windows or Visual Basic 1.0 or whatever, and I was going up to his suite to give the award. I had it all worked out: I’d hand him the award, blah blah blah, and then I’d detail exactly what Borland was doing right and Microsoft was doing wrong in the C++ IDE arena, and then I’d ask him for $1,000,000. I’d done the math and worked out that this would be like someone giving a thoughtful critique of my magazine (Computer Language) and our hated rivals (Dr. Dobb’s Journal) and then asking me for $1.25. Proportionally, it seemed very reasonable.
Anyway, I get into the elevator and who’s there but Gates himself? So I say “Jolt Award, blah blah blah,” and hand it to him. Okay, this is the thing: I think the Jolt Award is the best-designed award on Earth — a can of Jolt Cola embedded in a block of lucite. He looks down at it and I have never seen such a look of utter and unremitting disdain. It was like I’d just handed him a two-pound lump of steaming dog crap. He hands the award, without looking, to someone in his entourage, glances up at the elevator lights, and finally looks at me.
“Yeah. Great.” He says, leaving absolutely no room for “Which is all well and good for Visual Basic but Bill, I gotta’ tell ya, Borland’s kicking your ass in the C++ compiler arena and here’s why…”
The elevator ride ends in silence. We get to his floor and the door opens to an immaculately dressed PR handler. “Hi, Bill! Oh and I see you’ve met Larry!” She chirps happily.
“Yeah,” Says Gates, brushing by me. “He gave me an award.”