The Redmond Reality Distortion Field: Analogies involving high-performance cars, usually Ferraris

At the announcement of Windows 10, Joe Belfiore remarked,

We want all these Windows 7 users to have the sentiment that yesterday they were driving a first-generation Prius... and now with Windows 10 it's like a Tesla.

Well, at least it's not a Ferrari.

Inside the Redmond Reality Distortion Field, everybody loves to compare their project to a Ferrari. My guess is that the people making these comparisons are young male engineers who love fast cars and dream someday of owning a Ferrari, or they are older male executives who love cars and already own Ferraris.

I fall into neither category.

When I hear somebody compare their project to a Ferrari, I think, "So your target audience is wealthy jerks? Your project is dangerously fast, over-engineered, absurdly expensive, and is always in the repair shop?"

I would rather a product be a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla: Affordable, gets the job done with no fuss, high reliability, low TCO, no exotic parts or special driver training required. Especially if your product is an infrastructure component. Those things should be as boring as all get-out. The last thing anybody wants is exciting electrical wiring.

"Hi, yeah, um, nobody can print because somebody took a corner too hard and dinged the tire and suspension, and the printer is up on the lift right now, and the shop says it'll be around $5,000 to fix it, plus $500 for a new tire. But trust me, once it's fixed, we can go from 0ppm to 60ppm in three seconds. Sure we use twice as much toner, but man that printer is sweet!"

One of my colleagues fell somewhere in between the two categories above: He was a young male engineer who owned a Ferrari. It was a used Ferrari, but still. Ferrari. The problem was that the Ferrari was always in the repair shop. His solution: Buy a second Ferrari.

This is not a solution available to most people.

Of course, this is also not a problem most people have.

Bonus chatter: The day after I wrote this, I was in a meeting where a team was showing off their project. The presenter said, "We created a Ferrari, basically."

Comments (42)
  1. Frank says:

    "I would rather a product be a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla: Affordable, gets the job done with no fuss, high reliability, low TCO, no exotic parts or special driver training required." Speaking like a true Asian, lol.

  2. Joshua says:

    How about an APC? Works great. Lousy fuel economy.

    [I think that fails the "low TCO" test. Also the "no special driver training required." -Raymond]
  3. I don't fall into either category either, being a young male engineer who has never found various cars to be sexy or desirable.  That being said, when it comes to software I usually prefer the solution that finds a good balance between power/customizability (the two generally being one and the same) and simplicity/ease of use.  This is why I prefer Windows: it gives me a lot of customization if I need it and power if I want it, but it doesn't force me to when I don't want to.  Fruit-inclined OSes are almost actively hostile with giving their users any degree of power or lower-level control, whereas penguin-inclined OSes are far too happy to let me do whatever I want, but oh yeah, if you run it on this hardware then the window server needs these flags set, and if you use this processor you definitely want your kernel to be compiled with these flags to get the best performance, and we didn't test that checkbox and the other checkbox together and now your system is constantly crashing, you say?  Well drop a line in one of the hundred forums and maybe someone will help you or call you an idiot.  Depends on the weather.

  4. pmbAustin says:

    This is probably my favorite update ever. :-)

    And count me in the same category as MNGoldenEagle.  I'm in neither category, don't want to be in either category, and own a Honda Accord that still looks and feels almost new even though it's over ten years old. :-P

  5. morlamweb says:

    It sounds like your colleague with the two Ferraris now has three problems: two expensive cars in the shop, and still in need of a vehicle for transportation.

    I don't fall into either category, either.  I'm a young engineer with absolutely no interest in sports cars.  However, I have described my main means of transport as a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports vehicle (it's a bicycle).

  6. John says:

    I too am a young engineer but drive a Honda haha, reliability all the way! There is a poster floating around the office that uses a tree swing analogy for describing customer requirements, what was really needed, and what was eventually delivered, great poster.

  7. Boris says:

    How about the metro/underground (if available in one's area and if one doesn't have kids to drive around, of course)? I get to read an ebook and/or surf the net while someone else is doing the driving.

  8. ch says:

    Tell your colleague to sell one of the Ferraris and get a Honda Civic … Type R

  9. KapilK says:

    Snark: Is that why Windows never features prominently in High Performance Computing benchmarks?

    Comment: Agree with Raymond's philosophy. After years of tinkering with the OS, all I want is a OS that is stable, and works every single time. My general philosophy is to neuter third party OS extensions – unnecessary kernel mode components – drivers, services.. explorer add-ins etc. And once I setup a PC to a working state – I make sure to never touch anything. Has served me well so far. My work PC stays up indefinitely without crashing. I manually schedule security updates once in every two months if needed and that's when I usually reboot.

  10. alegr1 says:

    Car metaphors are Cadillacs of metaphors

  11. Max says:

    It's a consequence of buying too much into the trendy, innovative, bleeding-edge, cool conception of technology products and brands these days. Who wants to be a boring old company like IBM, with an endless array of graying engineers wearing ties focused on iteratively improving long-standing enterprise offerings under a logo that hasn't been updated since 1972, when you can be a trendy hip company spending big money on bigger bets in the consumer space in hopes of breaking into and re-inventing the next big thing? Of course, business is consistently stable and profitable at old tech giants like IBM, while most of the companies who have bet on emerging consumer markets like mobile have lost big…

  12. Rybo says:

    In reference to the quote,

    "The presenter said, "We created a Ferrari, basically."

    Was the presenter opining that the product was what everybody wants a Ferrari to be, or what they actually are?

  13. David Crowell says:

    Redundant Array of Independent Ferraris?

    I drive a Civic.  The Civic is the backup to the bicycle.

    My current job is writing software for our manufacturing plant.  Nobody wants a Ferrari here.

  14. Douglas says:

    So, Ferrraris have nine fives of availability?

  15. Dave says:

    I'd go for a Mazda3 diesel (3rd gen): Incredibly good performance (fuel economy), enough electronics to be useful without getting in your way, reasonable price.  My only concession to vanity might be to go for the sedan rather than the hatchback.  If it was an OS, it'd be Windows 7.

  16. Drak says:

    I drive a civic (type R). When people comment on wanting things to be like a Ferrari I always wonder what they mean.

  17. iJones says:

    I drive a Fiat 500 diesel.  Very reliable, very economical, and very small.

    But the same thing comes in a Ferrari variant (I kid you not)

    I try to make the software that I write work the same way.

    Very reliable, very economical, and very small.

    But if you want it to be amazing, you can be accommodated, and will likely enjoy the result.

  18. Boris says:

    I keep imagining that comment about the Ferrari as something stolen from "The Apprentice", but perhaps it was more self-deprecating or tongue-in-cheek? If the former, was the presenter taken down a peg?

  19. Killer{R} says:

    When debugging Win10 internals there're lot of system components called 'manager'-s and 'broker'-s. This also reveals dreams of that young male engineers.

  20. AP² says:

    @Max: actually, IBM's revenue have been falling for 13 consecutive quarters, with all its major lines reporting a year-over-year decline, plus shrinking profits.

  21. Mc says:

    I'm a developer and I also drive a Honda Civic (Type S).   But getting older and finding the sports suspension is a little hard now and rarely take it above 80mph, so next car will probably be something even more boring.  

  22. GWO says:

    As far as computers go, I wish all my home PCs had the qualities of a classic Land Rover, or failing that a Toyota HiLux.

  23. Jwrayth says:

    I'm a developer and I drive a DeLorean, though before you jump to conclusions it's incredibly reliable. I wonder what category that puts me in…

  24. DWalker says:

    @jwraith:  With that DeLorean, you're probably the one who has the time machine that Raymond is always talking about.  

  25. John says:

    @Adam Rosenfield

    That's the one! Lots of truth in that poster.

  26. benjamin says:

    Here in my garage, just got Windows 10. It's fun to drive here in the Hollywood Hills.

  27. Alex Cohn says:

    I love the products I use to be cheap and reliable. My smartphone is 3 years old. But I prefer to devlop something on the cutting edge – to engineer a Ferrari, if you will. For bonus points, try to fit the Ferrari features inside a Fiat 500. There is still much to do for Corolla, but is is like working at an assebly line – very important work, but where is the fun?

  28. Edgar says:

    Times are changing. In former times all people wanted to develop a space rocket and now only a slow Ferrari. BTW: I drive a Honda. Haha

  29. JM says:

    Whenever someone trots out a car analogy when discussing software, I rev it into overdrive and zoom away.

  30. D-Coder says:

    And every time, there's a different number of wheels on the thing.

  31. Dave says:

    @jwraith: If you've got a DeLorean that isn't constantly breaking down and in need of maintenance, you may want to get it put in a glass case, it's probably the only one of its kind.

    (A guy I know has one.  Its one of the few cars to be rated in miles-per-person-pushing).

  32. Azarien says:

    Windows 10 is a Ford. You can have your windows in any color you want as long as it is white.

  33. Boris says:

    @Alex Cohn: I think the point is that you can certainly have fun, but only after you've done all you can to keep your customers happy, then the people who'll maintain your code, then the people who'll read your documentation, etc. This is different from, say, writing an app as a hobby, where you get to pick everything and make it more of an artistic endeavor, and if other people like it, fine, if not, it's an expression of yourself and you don't really care.

  34. Mason Wheeler says:

    I really wouldn't mind building a software Tesla: Expensive, sure, but top-grade quality and actively reinvesting the proceeds from the software into fixing some of the biggest problems in the software world by simply making them obsolete?  Where do I sign up? :D

  35. Boris says:

    @Mason Wheeler: but that's not what Windows is supposed to be. Windows is supposed to be something companies can upgrade to without discarding all kinds of legacy software.

  36. Anon says:



    Windows is supposed to be something companies can write garbage for with confidence that Microsoft will spend all their money ensuring said garbage continues to work for decades.

  37. Jwrayth says:

    @Dave – At 34 years old a DeLorean is only as reliable as those who have maintained it over the years. It sounds like your friend and the previous owners of his car haven't really been up to scratch. I've only had to push mine once, and that was my fault for ignoring the low-fuel warning light!

  38. boogaloo says:

    Better than comparing it to a Lamborghini, if you are lucky it won't catch fire.

  39. Dave says:

    @boogaloo: Not just Lambo's, a friend of mine once had to respond to a PA announcement "would the owner of the Alfa Romeo number plate …. please go to the car park immediately, your car is on fire".

  40. Adolf says:

    Windows 10 is more like a VW though.

  41. Mike says:

    "So your target audience is wealthy jerks?" I don't own a Ferrari, but I know a number of people who do. Some of them are wealthy, and some of them are not. None of them are jerks, unlike many of the strangers they meet when seen getting in or out of their cars (perhaps because of generalisations like those in this post about cost and reliability).

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