Iron Man: Ode to Gates and Ballmer?

Tonight I saw the Iron Man blockbuster, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. The movie defines Stark as a precocious kid, by flashing an old photo of him with Bill Gates. Along with some additional life history, we learn that Iron Man is at the top of his technical game but has seen some better days.

In Iron Man, the Microsoft parallels could continue beyond this introduction. Bill has been thinking about how computing can positively impact the world for years. In Stark’s case, a near-death episode makes him question the meaning of all his weaponry and its world-wide impact.

Meanwhile, Obadiah Stane has worked at Stark Industries for many years and serves as the second-in-command for the business. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Steve Ballmer, don’t you agree?


As played by Jeff Bridges, Stane shares some of Ballmer’s focus on the marketplace. If you leave aside the more sinister plot twists, Stark Industries is the biggest worldwide supplier of weapons. The company needs to stay technically competitive, and will do what makes sense to get there.

Of course, Microsoft is the worldwide supplier of desktop operating systems and has every intention of becoming a more potent online force. While in the game later, Ballmer wants to guide Microsoft in the most expedient ways possible — with or without Yahoo.

So where does this movie metaphor take us? I think that Ballmer is saying that Microsoft will create an even better Iron Man now. It all about the war, not about saving the peace, right?

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