When you buy a car, you get a warranty, these days typically for 3 years on a decent model. Provided you keep up the fluid levels and do a bit of scheduled preventative maintenance, you're covered. So if the car fails, something breaks, or generally doesn't work the way it should, the supplier will fix it - for free. After all, you've paid for the car, you have a reasonable expectation of performance, safety and reliability. And ensuring that happens is good customer service and good business.
So why isn't the same applied to computers and software?
(This is an old rant I never quite finished, and decided to publish now just for fun - and see if it sparks any reaction.)
Hypothetically speaking, would you be prepared to pay Ford an annual fee - on top of the purchase price - to help prevent the wheels from falling off due to dodgy wheel nuts they decided to use to save a few bucks? If not, why would you buy Microsoft's OneCare
Microsoft charges a RRP of US$49.95 for its new OneCare package. And so what do you get?
- System Firewall
- System Backup
- Software Updates
But aren't many of these "extras" simply products that fix or mitigate against defects and flaws in the original system?
Anti-virus and Anti-spyware
Microsoft practically invented the US$4 Billion per annum market for antivirus software. The likes of Symantec, Norton and Computer Associates seem to exist almost by virtue of design flaws in the Windows operating system and its applications - the most common targets being Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.
The equation is simple: if there is a security flaw, it will eventually be found and exploited. Eliminate the flaws, and there will be no exploits. No exploits means we won't be losing billions more dollars per year.
Obviously the more complex an application, the more potential there is for security issues to arise. And developing exploit-free software is incredibly difficult. But how many times have we heard over the years that Microsoft is stopping work on new functionality and focusing purely on security? How has that really worked out for us? Would people prefer less features and more security, or the other way around?
It's Plus and its Live
What does this all really mean? It's called Plus
because you're paying extra for it. And it's Live
because it's on this new-fangled Internet thingy. Yes, these marketing folk are worth every penny. (Especially when they count some features more than once, to "flesh out" the feature set.)
Virus Scan: you paid for an insecure operating system, now you have to pay for the cure - but not the prevention. It's like the morning-after pill for your computer, but without the warm fuzziness.
Anti-Spyware: not only are Windows and Office so riddled with security flaws that you need all this technology to protect you, but Internet Explorer can invisibly infect your PC with software that steals your credit card details and sends it to the Russian mafia, all with a single click.
Software Updates: but you already get this built in with (the incredibly annoying) Windows Update. Is there really a genuine advantage to this Plus feature??
Defragments your hard disk: but wasn't NTFS (New Technology filesystem) was supposed to free us from the dim dark ages of FAT and defragging?
- Anti-Virus: wait, they already counted this one under 'Protection'. But it improves the 'performance' too? Fluff!
- Free up hard disk space: this is almost laughable - go read the website for yourself, I'm not making this up: it deletes useless junk files in your temporary directory.
- Software Updates: this was also listed under 'Protection'.
- Semi-automatic backups: this is useful, but I daresay there are better products out there that just do backup, and do it well.
This little gem in the product features list just stood out:
If a file on your computer is trying to do something that is unusual for that file type—a picture file trying to create a connection to the Internet, for example—Windows Live OneCare can catch that behavior and block the file.
Why isn't anyone asking: "what the hell kind of system are we running when a picture file can create a connection to the internet?"
Are consumers really that ignorant that they believe this is an acceptable situation? Do they not hold Microsoft accountable for at least some of the problems they routinely experience? They are lucky the EULA (End-User License Agreement) basically disclaims Microsoft of almost any responsibility whatsoever, regardless of whether or not it was their poor design that caused the problem or enabled it to happen.
In terms of the other incumbents, you can bet that Symantec isn't happy about Microsoft muscling in to their traditional market (wouldn't be the first time!). I suppose what Microsoft giveth, they can also taketh away.
Gates had the temerity to blame all the crackers out there for the ongoing problems with Windows. That's like blaming the driver for the crash when the wheels fall off. Remember Bridgestone?
So how is it going? Well apaprently it is selling like hotcakes
- but who knows why? Maybe people are sick of the spyware, the viruses, the slowdown, the constant invasion of your machine by malicious faceless outsiders. And I guess that fear is what keeps good customers paying, in the hope that the next
major release, service pack, or whatever will solve all their problems... Surely?