THE WARPED PERSPECTIVE
Hackers. They're scary, aren't they? Writing viruses
that flood your e-mail box with destructive junk-mail files.... Prying into the
secrets of your system configuration, and perhaps sending detailed reports of your
hardware and software preferences to centralized data repositories to be distributed
among nosey data voyeurs.... Intimidating you into buying or loading new programs
onto your computer, in order not to lose access to the Web or other important resources.
Disgusting, isn't it?
The Phillipines government recently accused a young computer programmer of writing
the "Love Bug" computer virus which quickly damaged computer files around
the world. They claim that this damage amounted to something like $12 Billion in
lost software and lost information, lost time required to replace damaged files,
and consultant fees to repair corrupted data. The hypocrisy here is that while twelve
billion dollars seems like a lot of money, it is very minor in comparison to the
annual damage wreaked by a more prominent group of hackers: commercial Windows software
No, I'm not just talking about Big M. I am also including smaller software houses
like Mattel Interactive. According to a US News & World Report article
in the July 3, 2000, edition, Mattel's game and educational software often sends
private data about a user's system configuration to Mattel's website for analysis
-- secretly, without the user's permission! That's right, the user had to
accept some hidden, automatic, encrypted software in order to complete the installation
process -- on over 100 separate consumer retail programs. Who knows what kind of
data could be damaged, or accidentally transferred to the outside world, from such
unrequested and unrequired programs that "peek" inside your computer and
report back to Big Brother?
As for Microsoft itself, I wonder just how many hundreds of billions of dollars
of "lost productivity" and lost data, as well as other unexpected costs,
would be chalked up to Microsoft bugs, errors, crashes, and self-serving programming
decisions. I wonder how many secretive "spy" programs have been surreptitiously
installed during the standard installation procedures. I wonder how many times privacy
was violated, secrecy was compromised, systems were overloaded, data was lost, and
people were driven into a furious rage by the hated Microsoft products.
But just as with the angry claims of the Love Bug virus victims, I'll bet you never
see such loss numbers on any balance sheet, on any corporate account statement,
on any stockholder prospectus, on any annual report. These are for the most part
"phantom losses", because they are ignored and downplayed. How else could
major corporations who possess millions of PCs ever justify the poor decisions they
made in settling for Windows and other bogus products, instead of reliable, high-productivity
environments like OS/2 Warp?
The phony economics of Windowism are also illustrated by a recent labor report published
by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). This report stated
that in the next year, some 250,000 new programmer positions would have to be filled....
while well over 600,000 technical support and repair personnel would be required.
Imagine that -- 12 repairmen for every 5 builders! What kind of a "productivity
metric" is that? This turns upside-down the old joke about "how many programmers
does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Instead, it's become "how many
repairmen do you have to send to fix the broken light bulb the programmers tried
to screw in?"
Naturally, the only way the corporate victims of this technological snake oil can
justify such wanton expenses is by constant downsizing, layoffs of the best programmers
and most experienced staffers, outsourcing everything from garbage collection to
accounting to website development to advertising. Only by severe, downward wage
compression through monopolistic human-resource conglomerates can corporate profits
survive the spiralling real costs of Windows. The recent stock-market washout shows
that sooner or later these costs must be accounted for. Yet upper management remains
as out-of-touch and in-denial as ever, refusing to demand a return-on-investment
measurement for Windows that accounts for the real costs of lost data, fired geniuses,
outsourced excellence, and unpaid overtime leading to fleeing workers looking for
more stable conditions.
That is so true.... the Love Bug and all other computer viruses have done less real
damage to computers and data and careers in the last twenty years, than Windows-based
products cause in a single year! If an honest evaluation was being done in corporate
offices, Windows would be quickly dispatched to the scrap-heap of history where
it belongs. The reason companies will use sleight-of-hand and trickery to avoid
such a decision is that it would reflect badly on the managers who were fool enough
to accept Microsoft's slick, clever spin-doctoring. Meanwhile, virus damage gets
immediate blame and is quickly assigned a dollar value because it does not involve
a corporate purchase; it is something that "just happened."
So don't be fooled by virus victims shouting for a short trial and a long rope.
These same people suffer far worse expenses from their own self-delusions, their
own bad decisions, and their own stubborn insistence on staying with Windows-based
systems no matter how bad things get. They can switch to OS/2 Warp and save millions
of dollars on support costs -- if they are honest enough to admit that they were
wrong to trust Big M.
As a nice bonus, Love Bug won't bother them any more, either.
The July 21, 2000 edition of the Nashville Tennessean, page E1, quotes an Information
Week Research study done by Price-Waterhouse Coopers. The study claims that the
global virus costs during the year 2000 will be $1.6 trillion, with U.S. losses
at well over a quarter-trillion dollars. The study also claims that the bulk of
the lost money is due to lost productivity while the computers are down.
If this is "real money," why does Mr. Greenspan not include it in his
economic models? If this is "real money," then how bad is the dollar loss
from crashed Windows machines and associated lost data?
Most recent revision: May 31, 2000
Copyright © 2000, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.