Practical computer tips, with a smattering of digital philosophy
I fully admit that my reaction to all the hubbub surrounding the Windows 7 launch is likely to be far more negative and partisan than most, but honestly: doesn’t it seem somewhat tasteless, tactless, and brazenly irresponsible for Microsoft to go to such extravagant lengths to promote its products in an era in which a nearly unprecedented number of people are worried about how they’re going to put food on the table? What happened to corporate leadership, fiscal moderation, and all those other fine sentiments which MS and the other giants of the IT world supposedly endorse? Buying out Time Square’s ad space for a day and releasing a set of ads showcasing supreme selfishness (“7 was my idea – all Mine”) seems to me to smack of exactly the same kind of short-sighted, complacent, shoot-for-the-moon thinking that got us into this economic mess to begin with. Even Apple’s branding and advertising strategies aren’t quite this exorbitant – and I consider them to be at the extreme end of the shamelessness-in-marketing scale. Finally, I might also add that, if the merits of Windows 7 really can speak for themselves, it seems mighty odd that Microsoft is doing so much yelling.
What, exactly, is my point here? Simply that conspicuous consumption (not to mention shameless self-promotion) is annoying under any circumstances; in this economic climate, however, such behavior is reprehensible – and should not be condoned or rewarded. Though I have access to free (and legal) licenses of Windows 7 Ultimate through several channels, I have no intention whatsoever of installing it, and I encourage everyone else who objects to Microsoft’s virtually unbroken track-record of ethical and social irresponsibility to do the same.
More generally, I wanted to take this opportunity to formally articulate my stance towards Microsoft, and the various operational paradigms it embodies – a perspective which I’ve been formulating for much of the past few years. The way I’ve come to see it is this: though profit-driven mega-corporations such as Microsoft (and many others) have been responsible for a wide range of technological advances, their engineering accomplishments cannot begin to excuse or make up for the tremendous ethical failings on which those products were often built. Particularly in the case of Microsoft, whose capacity for innovation has historically been limited to creative uses of buy-outs, monopolistic business agreements, and outright theft, I believe that there is very strong a strong ethical and economic argument against continuing to implicitly support the irresponsible, ruthless, and completely profit-driven operating style that it and many other Silicon Valley powerhouses have embraced pretty much since their inceptions. As far as I’m concerned, it is high time we stop letting “the dynamics of the free market” decide how we work and live in our increasingly digitized world, and start considering the long-term implications of inhabiting a world where companies like Microsoft can and will do anything – intimidate, lie, sell our private information, etc. – to keep their profit margins up. The idea that a few nice design features can make up for decades of irresponsibility and unethical behavior is an insult to the idea of civil, law-based society – and one that I cannot condone.
Again, I realize my stance is somewhat extreme – and I am, perhaps, somewhat overstating my case. Nevertheless, I think my point still stands: it cannot hurt to stop once in a while and take a moment to think about the larger implications of the products and services we use every day, and make sure that they are helping us build a society that we’ll be able to live with in the years to come.