The Evil Twin Syndrome

Anyone who has watched more than seventeen minutes of television is familiar with the evil twin plot device. Somewhere around the second or third season the writers are bereft of original plot ideas and reach into the emergency plot device notebook and pull out either the evil twin emergency story line or the super condition Critical clip show gimmick. You can't go to the evil twin school of plotting very often if you're hack writing your way through Hollywood, but once you do it's thankfully easy. You slap a goatee somebody (evil Spock, Evil David Hasselhoff) and viola: Evil twin goodness. The rest of the story, I am told, writes its self. So if you're a Hollywood writer and you can only go to the well once or twice in the life of the show, how come Microsoft can be evil Apple ALL of the time? And even worse, why is Microsoft defying convention and refusing to use a mac logo with a goatee?

For years people have been accusing Microsoft of copying Apple (cause of Windows and all) and doing it poorly. I was once one of those people, I whiled away my spare time wondering why Microsoft couldn't innovate or at least be a little better at copying Apple until I realized the evil twin isn't a copy, it's just different. The evil twin OS is much more picky and harder to get along with. The evil twin OS is less elegant, the evil twin OS doesn't play well with others even though the evil twin OS tells you it is plug and play, the evil twin OS demands more from you and more from your machine. The evil twin also tells you it is better, but what did you expect? It's an EVIL twin.

I think we are being too hard on the Evil twin OS, evil twin computers and evil twins in general. Somebody rewrote Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel and I hear Grendel came off pretty well (I never read the rewrite, because I kind of liked Grendel in the first place). Evil twins aren't trying to be evil, they're trying to be the best twin they can be. Anyone who remembers the Star Trek episode featuring Evil Spock remembers that Evil Spock wasn't evil, just pragmatic. I see Microsoft in the same light. The minions of Bill aren't purposely making crappy and positively unstable Oses, they are making the best Oses they can while still aping Apple and squeezing the most dough possible out of their customers. This does not make Microsoft inherently evil, this makes Microsoft uniquely Microsoft. Unfortunately, being an evil twin does make Microsoft's offerings decidedly worse than similar products from Apple.

Since Microsoft's evil intentions have been disposed of we must stop and ponder the reasons Microsoft is not on the same level as Apple and why, while clearly inferior, Microsoft makes so much more dough than Apple. Since Windows is just a really bad copy of Mac OS (up to X) it's not hard to deduce why Apples Oses are so much better than Microsoft's Oses (all nine billion versions). Right off the bat you have lead-time issues. Since Microsoft is trying to be Mac like they really can't start being Mac like until the latest Mac stuff comes out. Microsoft needs the final product, not some early version. The final version is crucial so they can put enough unmacness in to be just a bit different (like putting the menu thing at the bottom of the screen and calling trash "recycle"). Then you have the problem of copying. I am sure the Mona Lisa has been studied and repainted many many times, but has any art student surpassed the original? And hey, I don't want to hear about how the whole thing was stolen from Xerox that's like saying realistic painting was stolen from French caves. The short reason Microsoft can't produce a better copy of Apple's stuff is because they are copying. The scribes of ancient Egypt may have been excellent writers but we will never know because as human Xeroxes they were allowed zero creative input. The stalwart programmers at Microsoft are in the same boat, their job is to copy Apple, not come up with original stuff.

Obviously Microsoft stuff is installed on more computers and whether you want to admit it or not, Bigger market means bigger profits. Sure for Microsoft this means more dough, but it also means that their product is installed on less than top not notch equipment in most cases. Some wintels feature drives less reliable than the classic audio tape drive hooked up to a commodore 64. While Apple can put decent pieces into their machines Microsoft is forced to write an OS that supports hamster driven hard drives and logic boards soldered by Ms. Long's fourth grade class (Windows users can see a substantial speed increase by spiking the hamster feed with NoDoze). This is the equivalent of forcing General Motors to spec out replacement parts that work both in a Monte Carlo and a Yugo. The sheer popularity of Windows makes it unstable, every time you touch a wintel you're shaking hands with the lowest bidder AND their lowest bidder and every lowest bidder they've known for eighteen months. Hence Microsoft also suffers from product control, I am sure the would appreciate it if everyone used high quality components but they really appreciate everyone installing Windows.

It's time to stop think of Microsoft as purposely evil and start thinking of Microsoft as that in-law who visits and shouts out the answer at millionaire after everyone else has. Who was the star of "Ironweed"? Why it was Jack Nicholson of course. See it couldn't be Christian Slater, Val Kilmer or Charles Grodin cause seven other people already yelled "Nicholson". We need to think of Microsoft as this person, cause hey, they're just copying the best they know how. Until Microsoft breaks out of the "I'm being just enough like a Mac to be usable" and starts innovating I suppose the Mac will be around. The Mac faithful will be stuck with better computers, cooler Oses and more stable machines. Popularity is a small price to pay for inherently better computing experience, plus the Evil twin is always more popular. The evil twin is fixated on destroyimg the good twin and the acceptance of the masses. Don't blame the evil twin, blame the folks who bought into the spiel.

Addendum: I first wrote this missive before QuickTime was disabled in the latest Microsoft products. Some have called this an oversight; some have called it a clear attempt to force Windows Media Player onto everyone. Well of course Microsoft is trying to mash Windows Media Player down our throats, they are EVIL twins after all.