William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.
Microsoft employs some pretty smart people, about 100,000 of them worldwide.
It's got Ph.D.s, Psy.D.s, MBAs, MSCSs, and MScITs -- whatever those are; people who know things that would make the average person's head explode. It has business consultants who make about a zillion dollars an hour, give or take a few decimal points.
On top of that, Microsoft has a massive advertising budget. The Beast of Redmond just spent $1.5 billion -- yes, with a "b" -- marketing its new Windows 8 platform and Surface tablet line.
The result of all that intellectual and monetary firepower? The products flopped spectacularly.
Microsoft had to write off $900 million on the Surface alone. Windows 8.0 has the potential to go down as a worse market failure than Windows Vista, and that was right up there with New Coke and the Apple Newton.
Ditto for BlackBerry. The Canadian smartphone company had minds brilliant enough to revolutionize the way the world communicates. It had 41 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share four years ago. In August, the company reached 6 percent, and that was considered good news. The company formerly known as Research in Motion is currently researching how to break up itself and sell its parts for salvage.
It's little wonder then that the folks in Washington are having a devil of a time trying to roll out Obamacare. Even the best thought-out niche products can slip off the highdive. And no one, not even its proponents, has accused Obamacare of being well thought out. Its market? One-sixth of the American economy, arguably the most complicated slice.
Pew polling showed this week what we all pretty much knew already. Obamacare is a bust as currently constituted. It's too complicated; too expensive; and it's probably not going to do what it was supposed to. It may make things worse, with companies reducing employee hours to avoid increasing health care costs. Only 25 percent of Americans surveyed said they understand Obamacare "very well" -- and at least half of them had to be lying. The Obamacare bill is now more than 20,000 pages long, almost eight times the size of the original bill that was criticized for being preposterously long. Are you sure you understand it "very well"? Because if you do, there may be a job for you in Washington -- Redmond, Wash., that is.
Some are now blaming Republicans for Obamacare's rollout failure, just, I'd bet, as a Coke executive or two pointed the finger at Pepsi during the 1985 New Coke debacle. If there's one thing Republicans have been clear about in the past four years it's that they don't support Obamacare. House Republicans have voted 41 times to repeal it.
Maybe things would have been different if President Barack Obama and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was Speaker of the House at the time it passed, had included more Republican market-based ideas in the bill-drafting sessions. A compromise bill might have been better than what we have now -- and there's still time for one. With any hope -- and I know I'm dreaming here -- Obama will listen to Buffet and head back to the drawing board, before too much damage is done, with a bipartisan spirit this time. Who knows what could happen. The Apple Newton was a bomb, but it eventually yielded the iPad.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.