I’ll admit I haven’t been a big fan of Microsoft for a long time now, but the recent rash of viruses and worms that have afflicted the various Microsoft operating systems, right through to the latest and greatest technology they have to offer in Windows XP, have started to really make me think about the role they as a company have to play in the future of the technological world. As a company that has managed to become as dominant in one market as they have, I believe they now have a legitimate legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to the world that they are not meeting.
The sheer insecurity of Windows systems used to be something I could laugh about. It didn’t have much of an effect on my own life so I didn’t really care that much. Unfortunately, the scale of the most recent worms has now started to significantly affect even my company’s Linux based network. None of our computers have been infected, but they are having to bear the extra email load generated by the thousands (millions, even?) of computers out there that have been affected. That combined with the extra email everyone is getting has increased our company’s human workload as a whole as well. We’re a relatively small company too, so I know we’re not feeling the worst of the pain, either.
Now, I’m starting to wonder what level of blame Microsoft themselves should take for this situation. Some people may say blaming Microsoft for this virus is like blaming the builders of a road for a car accident, and that may actually be a very good analogy. Of course most car accidents have nothing to do with the safety of the road itself, but it also seems likely that some accidents that have occurred could have been avoided if the road had been designed more thoughtfully. To take that a step further, some accidents have certainly been caused by poorly designed roadways, and in those cases surely the designers and builders of the roads should shoulder at least some of the blame, no?
Microsoft has clearly attempted to become the dominant player in the desktop operating system market, and they have largely achieved that goal. To that end they have designed much of their operating system in such a way as to reduce the value of software written by competing companies. A great deal of thought and work has gone into creating the Windows dominated world we live in today, but it’s starting to look like very little, if any, thought was put into how to protect consumers in the event of a massive security breakdown within that world. In my eyes, Microsoft has created a monster it is incapable or unwilling to control and I believe they should bear some legal and financial responsibility for that.
My question is where do we go from here? What next step can we take? Is Microsoft going to willingly take responsibility for their actions or does something more serious have to be done?