The next time I hear a software vendor claim to have the interests of their users at heart I think I will hurl. The latest examples of corporate greed reducing our cost-efficiencies is, surprise, surprise, Microsoft.
In one case the recent efforts to create a standards-based framework for reducing spam (called MARID) has fallen apart. Microsoft is at the heart of this dissolution with their usual technique of pushing 'standards' that they have an intellectual property stake in. This causes others in the standards process to dig in their heels, as they don't want one company to control such a vital part of the computing infrastructure. The standards effort then fall apart but, thank the Lord, some wonderful vendor like Microsoft step in to safe us from our dysfunctional selves. They build an inferior product that we all have to use because nobody else can afford to compete with them. Just imagine, not only can you no longer browse safely because Internet Explorer is a rapidly deteriorating piece of garbage, but soon you will also have to pay Microsoft to get rid of your spam. Or at least that is what they would like. As is also the norm these days, the open source movement is battling Microsoft to maintain an open software environment (SPF) that encourages secure computing and competition. We will soon see if corporate greed and government incompetence lead us to to the promised land, or down the garden path. Genetically Modified Software (from your friendly neighborhood Microsoft) anyone?
In another example Microsoft has announced they will only secure Internet Explorer for XP. Gee, all I have to do then is turf my old PC (which still works fine, thank-you), buy a new one and make sure it has XP. Then I can sit back and watch while viruses and spam start to swamp my system. Boy, we've come a long way from a free browser to a $300 (Cdn) upgrade just to make that dusty browser safe. Welcome to Bill's world! Multiply that by 400 million old Windows OS users and you can see why Bill can afford to fund malaria research. Maybe he should try and eradicate a different kind of pest - corporate greed. If this doesn't make the government watch dogs stand up and take notice I don't know what will. If it doesn't also cause everybody to go out and replace their IE with Firefox I will be only moderately surprised, but dejected non-the-less. The University of Winnipeg is slowly starting to add Firefox to all systems on campus, the bigger problem is how do you shut down IE completely? There is a way, but try and do that across your entire campus. I still don't understand how a behemoth like Microsoft can't build a simple browser that works, when a high-school student can do it as a computing project? Unless of course, they want it to break...
This is all topped off with a continuing drive to undermine the open source movement. The recently released HP-Microsoft letter confirm what everyone in the industry already knew - Microsoft is waging a quiet battle to kill the open source movement - their only significant source of competition these days. When one considers the corporate-centric lobbying world of Washington and other government centres these days, this could be a tough one. The next stage in this battle could well be Office, as Microsoft sharpens its knives and points them at OpenOffice. At the University of Winnipeg the Library has started to push towards adoption of OpenOffice by loading it on all our public access computers. Our computing centre was typically resistant, but I am hoping that they will move this out to other systems on campus as well.