Last changed
March 28th 2010

If a car was like a pc, then...

(Only in English)

At COMDEX recently, Bill Gates reportedly compared computers with cars, claiming that "If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 miles to the gallon."

This is not an original comment, as we have heard similar ones made at various presentations by others over the last few years. General Motors' reportedly responsed, "Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?" is also not new - it is a joke that has been doing the rounds and, allegedly, even made its way into one of Robin Bloor's presentations last year. However, GM added a further set of comments that pursued the analogy. We have taken some of these and added yet more that we have heard from other sources, allegedly including comments made by Scott McNeally at various dinners. Here they are in no particular order:

If a car was like a PC, then:
  • Every car you could buy would have the same engine and would have a sticker on the side that gave the name of the engine manufacturer. The dashboard would show the logo of the carburettor (and other components) manufacturer. There would be very few adverts on the television for cars, but many for a specific brand of engine and a specific brand of carburettor.
  • The car would regularly stop for no reason, when executing a common manoeuvre. When you restarted it, it would usually appear to work normally, but sometimes you would discover that you had to restart your journey and occasionally you would have to strip the car down and re-install all of the parts.
  • If you installed a new wing mirror, the car might not work anymore.
  • When you turned the car radio on, the car might inform you that you were short of electricity and would have to turn another device off (like the headlights) if you wanted to use the radio application.
  • All the warning features for oil, gas, electricity, brakes, airbags, etc. would be installed as a single warning which flashed up the helpful message "Something is wrong, please stop the car". When you restarted the car, you would not know whether there was still a fault.
  • When you called up for help, you would have to call a toll free number and select the proper number for the repair you wished to have done. An automated voice would walk you through the step to repair the car yourself and when that didn't work would refer you to the company that sold the petrol.
  • Every time you bought a new car, you'd have to buy one with a bigger engine that went no faster and worked no better. What is more, every new model you could buy would have a different set of controls that worked in a slightly different way, but never improved the ability to drive. It would also have a few extra features (like an animated spark plug) that were of no use whatever.
  • The re-sale value of the car would drop 75% as soon as you drove out of the showroom and would be zero within two years.
  • If you bought new tyres, you would discover that you had to buy new seats, mirrors and windscreen wipers, because it was only possible to buy a bundle.
  • One other manufacturer would make a car that came fully loaded with optional equipment, was powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive, but would do no advertising and have very few dealerships. A few people would buy such cars, but if they ever drove them to work, they would be required by their employers to get expensive upgrades to their cars, which would make them run much slower and behave like other cars.
  • The owner of the carburettor (and other components) company would be very rich and travel round the world meeting world leaders, advising them that their economies would fail if they didn't encourage the buying of more cars. Occasionally while abroad this individual would get a cream flan in the face.
  • If this man were ever accused of running a monopoly, he would counter with the argument that: Cars is a competitive business in which his company has proved to be successful by competing and innovating better. If his company's dominant position were ever threatened, it would be a threat to innovation and car technology would cease to improve. This would be a difficult argument to counter because it would be clear that car technology desperately needed to improve.
(Source: Bloor Research, UK)


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