Security

OPINION

The Anti-Microsoft Tipping Point: Are We There Yet?

Had enough yet? Did the Blaster worm send you over the edge? Maybe one of its variants is emptying out your hard drive right now. Or perhaps your bottom line is still suffering from a shutdown caused by the SQL Slammer worm back in January.

Is any of that enough to convince you to stop using Microsoft products? There are plenty of people rooting for just such an outcome, from Sun Microsystems to the entire overwrought and strung-out open-source community. (Health tip, guys: Try decaf.)

But the odds are very, very good that even with all the alternatives in the world, you and I and the vast majority of the free world will continue to boot up our computers to the familiar strains of Windows music. Are we just a bunch of mindless sheep following the pack? Will we ever learn?

Hard Knocks

Those hoping Blaster, its predecessors or its offspring will convince large numbers of people that Microsoft really and truly puts the “E” in evil have to realize we’re being forced to unlearn a generation’s worth of conditioning.

Yes, we know Microsoft acted like a monopoly, and we know that’s bad. But we also know that from the time we first learned where the on button was on a computer, Microsoft products have powered our machines.

Computers are daunting to the majority of the general population. We want them to make our lives easier, and learning something new is the exact opposite of easy. Even if the open-source community could somehow design a product that let users keep using all the Windows commands and shortcuts learned over time, they’d still have to overcome the hurdle of user uncertainty. Windows has done the seemingly impossible — made computers familiar and easy for the general population toiling away on them.

Not Ready Yet

Are viruses a pain? You bet. Home users got a crash course in that pain recently, thanks to Blaster. And it is cold comfort that enterprises for years have been going through the same kind of scramble to patch systems. All we want is for our machines not to crash halfway through a task.

But the tipping point is still far in the distance. It will take a lot more sinister viruses before we even get close to a widespread anti-Microsoft movement.

Oh, sure, people will pay lip service. They’ll rail against Bill Gates every chance they get. But when it comes time to put up or shut up — to remove all traces of Microsoft software from their hard drives — you better believe they’ll think twice.

The fact is, Microsoft products still work for the majority of the population. People may say they want an alternative, but as long as they don’t have to put a bumper sticker on their cars that says, “Honk if you love Windows,” they’ll continue to use what works for them.

Good Enough for Government

Nothing’s perfect. People recognize that. In fact, computer users are conditioned to expect a certain amount of annoyance. If our systems become unstable or our ISP is out of service for a few hours every now and then, it’s just growing pains, the aftermath of the technological revolution.

So Windows doesn’t have to be perfect to be the people’s choice. It just has to be good enough. And it is. Besides, does anyone really think that if Linux were dominant, there wouldn’t be just as many flaws and fixes being bandied about for it?

No, the tipping point is like the horizon. You can drive across the desert all day long and the it doesn’t seem any closer. It’s going to take more than Blaster to move the horizon.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


5 Comments

  • (Sorry for the text lumping -this messaging software apparently doesn’t know how to format a paragraph)
    There IS a viable solution to the continuing Microsoft
    security nightmare. Unfortunately Keith didn’t choose
    to mention it: Switch to Apple’s technology at the
    next hardware refresh cycle.
    Before you tune out, please note: the current
    offerings are NOT your father’s Macs.
    Although Apple’s systems have always been more secure
    than Windows-based systems (49 recorded Mac viruses
    vs. 70,000+ for Windows), these new systems, running
    on OS X, are based on a rock-solid BSD UNIX foundation
    -and since the introduction of OS X over two years
    ago, there has not been one successful OS X malware
    penetration.
    Not one. Nada. Zit.
    Meanwhile, on the Windows front, three-quarters of the
    Navy Marine Corps Intranet recently lost network
    capacity due to an infestation by the Welchia worm!
    Life is too short for IT departments to have to deal
    with this kind of nonsense:
    http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,112090,00.as
    p
    Additionally, in terms of enterprise quality software,
    which operating system has the largest selection of
    software?
    If you think ‘Microsoft,’ you’d be wrong.
    One may be astonished to know that right now, it’s
    currently Apple’s OS X.
    Even if one ignores the availability of Linux or
    Windows emulation choices, the set of software that
    now runs on Apple hardware includes all the UNIX
    software out there. Over 40,000 industrial-grade
    applications. (Porting a UNIX application to OS X
    typically takes less than 10 minutes.)
    From what I have been gathering, this is something
    that is currently giving even Wintel-myopic IT
    departments pause.
    These are the same IT departments that have had it up
    to their chins with Windows virus/security management.
    The knee-jerk mantra that Macs are too expensive
    compared to Wintel boxes may have been true once -but
    it certainly isn’t true today:
    http://www.macobserver.com/shootouts/desktop_shootouts
    /2003/20030219/desktop_3500.html
    And when one factors in the spiraling support costs
    associated with cheap Wintel boxes, the procurement
    balance slides decidedly in Apple’s favor.
    A recent PC World survey of 29,593 subscribers found
    that 31 percent had a component failure, up from 25
    percent the previous year. And unlike Apple’s Macs, PC
    reliability is getting worse:
    http://www.pcworld.com/resource/article/0,aid,105854,p
    g,1,00.asp
    http://www.pcworld.com/resource/article/0,aid,16808,00
    .asp
    A PC failure rate of nearly 1 in 3?!? Er, excuse me??
    ("…but, but they’re so inexpensive!!" Oh, Please.)
    Additionally, a recent Consumer Reports survey found
    one in seven readers reported their Wintel PCs were
    inoperable or malfunctioning within a month, and
    nearly a quarter of all machines needed repair in the
    past three years. (The same report, btw, said Apple
    had the best, three-year repair rating.)
    http://ragingbull.lycos.com/mboard/boards.cgi?board=NY
    SE:HPQ&read=3432
    The bottom line: There is generally a 2-4 week lag
    between the time a new, virulent PC worm/virus is
    discovered and when Microsoft posts a patch.
    Is YOUR business willing to risk that kind of
    exposure?
    Mine certainly isn’t.

  • Couldn’t say it, could you?
    Couldn’t name the stable, trouble-free / worm-free (by comparison) computer OS? Couldn’t name the computer that truely innovates and is then poorly copied by MicroSuck?
    Couln’t name the computer that has a 10% installed base in the U.S.? (the often quoted, single digit numbers come from world sales for the last quarter)
    Okay… I’ll name it for you… Macintosh.
    And when IT people get sick enough of fixing Windows (enough to risk their job security), then you will see it tip… to Mac and Linux.
    MicroSoft free in 2003!!

  • We have already switched to the Mac OSX. I AM AM azed at how superior OSX is compared to Windows XP. We are still using Microsoft Office, but it is much better on OSX also.
    No more Windows machines for us.

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