Friday, August 02, 2013

The hole in the tech news

Over the years, I've noticed a sort of hole in the tech news. Here's an example: Airports' passport controls SHUT DOWN by 'malware' - report. Reading this report, we only know that the passport control system at the airport in the city of Istanbul was shut down by malware. There is simply no mention of the operating systems used on the servers or the client machines that were used to host and manage the passport control system. Does the reporter assume that we know they're running Windows? Maybe. Maybe not.

What OS were they running? That is the first question I ask myself when I read articles such as these, yet, that is the piece of the story that is almost always missing.

Whenever I read "malware" stories, I think of Microsoft Windows. But reading through this short article, there is no mention of Windows whatsoever. This omission is not an isolated example.

Let's take one of the most interesting examples, the London Stock Exchange the first business day after the Federal Reserve announced that it would rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That day was September 8th, 2008. On that day, the LSE was down for more than 7 hours while the rest of the world was trading on the news that the Fed was going to save the largest holders of mortgages in the US from certain doom.

Every report I read about this event waxed eloquent about the failure of the stock exchange that day, with one major detail omitted: what operating system was running at the time. As it turns out, the LSE was running their trading system on a .NET application platform on top of Windows servers. I didn't learn which operating system was running the trading floor at the LSE until I found this article more than two years later.

I venture to guess that Microsoft took great pains to keep those details out of the news. I suspect that Microsoft makes a monumental effort with every major failure of Windows Servers to keep that one detail out of the news. It would seem that they have had a great deal of success because it is mentioned in only very rare cases. I can easily see Microsoft threatening reports with the loss of access to key personnel for scoops if they should happen to let that detail get out.

It is sad to see that Microsoft, so eager to stomp on the faults of others, is so shy about monumental failures on their part, failures that cost others millions. Needless to say, the Windows trading system at the LSE was eventually replaced by a more reliable system running on Linux.

Microsoft is no longer dominant in the computing space as Windows is unable to dominate over free Linux and even non-free UNIX. Yes, there are still plenty of shops that run Windows, but the biggest shops are not using Windows Servers. Google, eBay and Amazon to name a few, don't use Windows on their servers. If they tried, Microsoft would simply raise their license fees to squelch a potential competitor out of business.

Microsoft is also no longer dominant in consumer computing devices and has been losing relevance since about 1995. The PC market is shrinking in favor of tablets and smartphones. Android, which also runs on Linux, owns 80% of the smartphone market. As a result of the shifts in the market, it is now estimated that Windows runs on a mere 20% of all network connected devices.

Perhaps reporters will find fewer inhibitions to reporting the failures of Windows in major service interruption events now that Microsoft no longer dominates over everyone else. Honest and complete reporting will allow businesses and consumers to make more informed choices about the software they wish to run on their computers.
Post a Comment