Bill Gates, please check your sources

A lot has been said about misinformation given by Bill Gates in his Newsweek Interview, but I’ll gladly join the ranks here, because it really is so disgraceful. I would advise Mr. Gates to investigate whatever internal staff feed him reports. Any IT consultancy would have firmly told him that his comment, “Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally.” is wide and far off the mark.

In fact, as every IT professional knows, Windows is unique in having excessive security problems, which stem from several sources, which I shall go into here, lest I become accused of similar crimes:

  1. The original Windows codebase was designed for a desktop operating system, not a networked one, and as a single-user OS. While little of this codebase may remain today,
  2. Microsoft doubtless picked up a large number of programmers – or even trained them – unaware of basic network security considerations.
  3. While it is possible that there are people at Microsoft who want to make the best software they can for consumers, it is clear that the security problems have not been inconvenient to Microsoft’s business model, as Microsoft relies on its relationship with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to propagate its license relationships with its “home” customers. OEMs want to sell new computers. Microsoft’s Windows is a CPU hog compared to OS X and Linux, and a memory hog relative to Linux. This drives OEM sales. Security software famously slows down systems even further, so in addition to the ecosystem that Microsoft gains to tout the benefits of its OS through third party makers of security software (because the third party companies depend on the Windows market), the memory and CPU requirements of such software help cement Microsoft’s relationship with its OEMs. Finally, promises of increased security can also drive OS sales per se, i.e. for upgrading existing hardware.

It is understandable that Microsoft is pining about the inconvenience consumers are experiencing with the new security measures (“deny”, “allow”) – these are the same problems that OS X had some four or five years ago. Necessary childhood pains that Apple has already resolved. A number of specific Windows security problems, such as not being able to install software under a non-administrative account (and hence having to run with nearly full privileges at all times to have a usable system; both Linux and OS X have always allowed unprivileged users to install software, unless specifically restricted), seem to have been resolved in Vista, but new breaches have been introduced.

Dishing out grievously incorrect information to customers is not a good basis for mutual respect. Mr. Gates commented, “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.” I wonder who Mr. Gates thinks that somebody is.