Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers' cesspit

The ‘Consumerisation of IT’ – but without all the cool Consumer stuff

Consumerisation does not mean a compulsory Robot Buddy

Microsoft has been obsessed with the trend of the “consumerisation of IT”. This is where the norms and values of its core enterprise customers are apparently usurped by not just the tools, but the values of consumer technology. While enterprise IT was mandated and top-down and boring, and typically employed strict data protection, consumer technology was promiscuous and fun. And consumerisation would kill Microsoft, so the argument went.

Because of the freebies they offered, Google and Facebook became synonymous with consumer technology. They also happened to be vast data harvesting plantations, gathering and monetising personal data at a fraction of the price people would put on it. (Through a quirk of history, as much as anything – but that's another story.)

Obsessed with appearing uncool to consumers, Microsoft’s top management decided to get on board. It bought into the vernacular of its executives wearing jeans and using their personal family photos as props for demos. (Every Joe Belfiore demo does this; I think I know his family better than I know the next-door neighbours.) We're not boring Microsoft, we're cool, see?

Alas, Microsoft has also bought into the dubious ethical values of the Silicon Valley data harvesters. Their propaganda tells us that amassing personal data is indispensable. Only then can they offer you a "personalised experience" that isn't creepy at all, we promise.

In fact, I think the consumer has swung much more towards the enterprise values of strong data protection and internalised them... only to see Microsoft pass it going in the opposite direction. Strong data protection fundamentally respects the individual. Slurping fundamentally doesn’t.

What I want from the “consumerisation of IT” – if there's such a thing – isn’t having my data slurped, or a serf-like relationship with a server plantation, but just having some nice cool tools for manipulating my personal media. Along with being able to control my data.

And until Windows 10, I was very receptive to allowing it to control my data. Why? Well, I only need a few tools to work well, either for the day job or personal use, and I like the OS to be an efficient runtime that doesn’t get in my way. Cross-platform tools like OneDrive and Evernote have made me fairly OS agnostic. And the quality of Apple’s platform has fallen to abysmal levels recently – Yosemite is buggy and inefficient, and forces me to work in ways I don’t want to work. iPhoto was EoL’d recently. I was pretty much a Windows switcher ready to switch. But Windows 10 offers me no advance in practical “consumerisation” that I can see.

Like Buck Rogers, SatNad wants a Robot Buddy...
and he wants everyone else to have one, too

Microsoft has wasted six years since the release of Windows 7 – years when it could have been producing really nice consumer tools – in charging after Steve Sinofsky’s catastrophic strategic vision and then repairing the damage. At the end of it, I can’t store and manipulate photos videos or music any better in Windows (2015) than I could in Windows (2009). The CEO is obsessed with making my “experience” “smarter”, because of his weirdly adolescent cloud AI obsession. (Lonely children dream of robot friends – it seems SatNad does too.) But nothing about Cortana really makes the consumer IT “experience” smarter. Whereas decent photo library or music organisation or video making and sharing tools would. Cortana’s gain is Microsoft’s, not mine. But then SatNad's a cloud guy: maybe he doesn’t get it.

To restore credibility with enterprises and trust with consumers, Microsoft needs to dial back the data grab, and put the user back in control. Have a look at those Windows 8.0 screens and start there.

How about it, Microsoft? You've spent years telling us other people are evil – why not be the good guy? It won't hurt you, really. ®

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