Bill Gates Trying to Console Computer Users by Deliberately Misleading Them and Lying to Them
March 4, 2004
I watched most of an interview with Bill Gates on Charlie Rose on PBS last night. I found myself frequently shaking my head and chuckling, the same way I shake my head and chuckle at the 'Decoding the Great Pyramid' book I am reading. Some of what he said was interesting, while some of it he was touting as a great wonderful thing, though it was in fact really scaryespecially if you ask one of our resident conspiracy theorists. For example, your computer will become so small, so powerful, and so ubiquitous, and it will develop the ability to understand and anticipate your needs (thanks to Microsoft software), and be able to communicate readily with computers and systems everywhere that you will be able to get any information from anywhere as you want it, wherever you are. Coupling this with the fact that your computer will be able to see and hear, this potentially means that your computer could readily report you to your boss for watching, say, bondage porn, with your spouse in the privacy of your own home. I'm sure that the potential for such things goes much further than that. Of course, Gates only commented on things like setting the music in the room to your personal preference and adjusting the art on the various plasma screens we all have in every room of our homes...
He also commented on how great it is that Microsoft, through the Gates Foundation has gotten computers into 18,000 libraries, and this is very important (which it is) and that no one else has made an effort to do something like this.
He commented on Longhornthe oft touted replacement for windows, which sounds, from his description, like a combination between OS X and OpenDOC, but is something that has never been attempted in the history of computingan interface that will dynamically change based on the content you are editing (like Claris Works) and seamlessly allow you to work with multiple elements in a document or presentation without having to switch applications and hope that the applications you are using will interface with each other. Maybe this is more like the SOUP... So, once again, Microsoft is going to be the first to do something innovative 8-10 years after someone else did it and have a smash hit for their brilliant innovation.
And when asked about open-source, he spoke for about 4 minutes and didn't make any sense. On the one hand, he said that there has always been and always will be free software, but that free software is never competitive with purchased software, and that nothing can replace the relationship between a manufacturer and a customer, and that with every new release of software from Microsoft, all consumers immediately want it because the great improvements in productivity that the new software can generate far exceeds the license costs. This doesn't make sense on several counts.
- First, unless I am mistaken, free and open source are not interchangeable termssome open source software is free, while other open source software is not, and some free software is open source and other free software is only available as a binary. It also seems like there is a difference between collaborative open source software (we send you the source when you want the software, and feel free to edit it, if your edits are useful and usable by others, send them to us and we'll incorporate them in the next release) and non-collaborative open source software (we send you the source when you want the software, feel free to edit it, and if your edits are really, really useful, let us know what you did and we may duplicate it in the next release). So, it struck me that on this point, Gates either does not understand what open source means (which I find highly unlikely) or he is trying to make the issue unclear to viewers and consumers.
- Second, it seems to me that most consumers are highly dissatisfied with the relationships they have with most of their software vendors. Getting support for products from RealNetworks, MarketFirst, Onyx, Adobe, Aladin Systems, and, yes, Microsoft, is often an effort in futility. I have even gotten, after badgering Microsoft support for an answer that was not contradictory to basic arithmetic (I have been taught that 7 is less than 31, and that 31 is less than 120, and therefore that 7 is clearly less than 120, however, Microsoft support maintains that 120 and 31 are both less than 7...) that first, Microsoft had a major security breach and that they had no interest in or intent to fix it, and that I had been deliberately lied to by three previous service contacts to hide this security problemand this is supposed to make me feel better? Come on, at least when I ask a question about compiling or configuring Apachethough the answer may take two weeks to come back, and it may be highly crypticat least I get an answer to the question I asked. (Mind you, this doesn't mean that I actually asked the correct question.)
- Finally, very few people upgrade immediately on release of the new software, especially from Microsoft. Typically, this is because there are few or no improvements seen in the product, and users are highly skeptical of the supposed improvements in productivity that the new software will offer, having been burned so many times. Also, the licensing costs frequently appear to significantly exceed both the perceived and the actual improvements in the software. Most people are forced into upgrading because one or two companies upgraded fairly quickly for whatever reason, and the new software is no longer compatible with the old. This means that the companies who upgraded creat an incredible workload for their own staff (or, much more often for the staff of those businesses with whom they work or collaborate) to be able to exchange information as necessary. Therefore, the collaborative companies need to upgrade their software, and this has a ripple effect throughout the market. The software was not upgraded because the software was betterin fact, the software was upgraded because the new version was WORSE. Furthermore, this practice of making software incompatible with itself and with similar products is actually contradictory to the supposed goal of simpler, faster, and easier data transfer with everyone everywhere.
The other thing that Gates talked about was security, and how security and privacy was their primary goal currently at Microsoft. He said that if he had a time machine, one of the things he would want to do for Microsoft is get started on security as an issue earlier, so that their system could be more secure and stable, because they just didn't realize that it was an issue. How could they not realize it was an issue? It gets press coverage, in fact it gets press coverage that points out that if you are using Linux or Mac OS its not an issue, its only an issue if you're using Windows/IE/Outlook. Statements like this make it highly evident that Microsoft has no interest in the wants or needs of its clients, only an interest in what they want their clients to do (which is distinctly different from what their clients want to do). He also pointed out how technology was clearly the answer to dealing with spam, and that Microsoft was developing a technology to be used in their email client to allow the clear and reliable identification of the users, so that you could identify who you wanted and allow them access to send you email and that other mail would be blocked. Sounds interesting, right? Well, earlier and again later in the interview, he discussed the paradigm shift that is occurring within the consumer market, where consumers are blocking marketing messages because they don't want them, and how people use TiVO (sp?) to record their television shows so that they can skip commercialsor even have them removed from the program before you watch it. because of this shift, Microsoft is working with legitimate marketers to ensure that their messages are delivered to suckers (read customers) despite this technology. However, he also said that Microsoft is working on technology for 'set-top units'like TiVO to help consumers receive the information (shows) they want or that they would be interested in, while eliminating the clutter and time wasting elements within those shows (ads). So, Microsoft is going to try to play both sides of the fence. First, make sure everyone (read everyone who matters) is using the Microsoft TV, the Microsoft Game System, the Microsoft set-Top Unit, and the Microsoft Internet package. This way, the marketers who pay Microsoft for permission to send spam or to otherwise advertise to people will be able to send their 'legitimate marketing messages' and the rest will be blocked. As a marketer, not only do you now have to pay to create an ad, and then pay to place it, you also have to pay Microsoft to not prevent its delivery...
He also spoke briefly about computerized, intelligent, thinking cars with Microsoft software - brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Here's where you will go today."