Spoutin' Off: Waiting to say niceties of Microsoft

By Michael Rau

March 20 2006

I thought this was going to be my chance. I really did. I, like many others, had followed the pre-introduction buzz about a new gizmo to be deployed by Microsoft with the codename "Origami."

"Cool name," I thought.

It elicits an image of a sort of Swiss Army Knife-type of device that somehow folds into a small form in a creative way. The buzz was that it would represent the ultimate in a compact computing device.

So I think to myself: Maybe I'll finally be able to say something nice about Microsoft and get this monkey off of my back.

Sorry, Charlie. Not this time.

As it turns out, "Origami" - introduced under the moniker "UMPC" for "Ultra Mobile Personal Computer" -is really nothing more than a PDA on steroids. It's smaller than a typical notebook computer, but it's way too large to fit in a pocket or purse (about 9 inches by 6 inches by 1 inch thick). It has no keyboard, instead opting for a touch-screen like a PDA.

So this gadget is too big to be truly portable and too small and underequipped to be as utilitarian as a notebook. My question is: What's the point?

If you've been reading this column, I'm sure it's pretty obvious that I'm no fan of Microsoft. In fact, I tend to avoid reviewing Microsoft products because I feel less than objective about its output.

My disappointment over Origami reminds me why. In its entire history, Microsoft has never produced a superior product. There is no software or hardware ever made by Microsoft that someone else hasn't made better.

In fact, Microsoft's market domination has been achieved almost entirely through aggressive - sometimes predatory - business practices. Remember how it invested millions of dollars to create a product called Internet Explorer - which it then distributed for free, solely to crush a competitor with a superior product called Netscape Navigator? Why couldn't it just compete on a level field? Because there would have been no contest, and Microsoft knew it.

Microsoft has never had an original idea. Every product it's released was someone else's concept. Even its flagship product, the original MS-DOS, was rewritten from an operating system it bought from someone else.

I've been reluctantly keeping up with the pre-release buzz over Vista, the long-under-development upgrade to the Windows operating system. What I find amusing and aggravating at the same time is the breathless enthusiasm with which Windows advocates are touting this product.

For Pete's sake: Almost every single feature they're crowing about has been a part of Mac OSX for years. Yes, the new graphics are attractive but nothing groundbreaking.

The only thing that will make Vista a meaningful upgrade is if it manages to plug the gazillions of security holes in Windows. Fans of Microsoft keep saying that it will, but the beta version of Vista has had security flaws uncovered.

Considering how many times Microsoft has claimed that its latest security patch will solve all your Windows security problems, I have little confidence that anything will change with Vista. I believe that for the foreseeable future, the ubiquitous deployment of the Windows operating system will continue to create and perpetuate the majority of security risks and flaws on internal and external networks worldwide.

This brings me to one more little bit of news that came out a few days ago: Ever since Apple implemented its transition from PowerPC to Intel Core microprocessors, there's been a buzz about creating a true "dual-boot" machine. That is, a computer capable of running Mac and Windows operating system.

In spite of Apple's obvious distaste for such an endeavor, once the Intel-driven Macs were available, hackers around the globe decided that getting Windows onto the new Macs was a project roughly comparable to the search for the Holy Grail.

A guy named Colin Nederkoorn, hoping to use one of the new Macs to replace his existing Windows machine, launched a contest with $100 of his own money as a prize and solicited donations to the prize fund from others. The fund eventually reached $14,000.

Well,a few days ago, someone succeeded.

A winner was declared, and he is apparently planning to sell access to the solution.

My question is "Why?"

Why in the world would anyone want to corrupt an absolutely wonderful computer/operating system combination by installing Windows on it?

It's not enterprise users driving this quest.

It's taking a while, but IT managers are gradually turning to Linux and Mac operating and server systems because they're tired of dealing with the cost of productivity lost from Windows' security flaws.

I'm told that the Windows-onto-Mac quest is being driven mostly by gamers, who wish to play Windows-only computer games on the superior architecture of the Mac hardware.

To these folks, I'd like to say, "Stop trying to mess up a good thing."

And to Bill Gates and the other folks in Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters - I'm still waiting.

Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, visit http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.

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