Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during the BUILD developer conference that Microsoft is "reimagining" itself. Addressing Microsoft's future, Ballmer said: "In a sense you could say that if Windows 8 is Windows reimagined, we're also in the process—and Windows 8's an important step of that—of reimagining Microsoft." Well I'd like to "reimagine" Windows too, as secure, as about users' choices in reality and not just a PR campaign . . . Just like some Microsoft employees seem to want to "reimagine" the company without Steve Ballmer, or else want to drink and the kill the pain of listening to another Ballmer speech.
According to the Mini-Microsoft blog, which is written by an anonymous Microsoft insider and employee, Microsoft employees left "in droves" while Steve Ballmer spoke at the annual Microsoft Company Meeting. It appears as if the Redmond giant's employees might rather "reimagine" Microsoft without Ballmer at the helm. The post also laid out the good, bad and ugly at Microsoft right now. Here is the Microsoft employee's suggestion of how to get through listening to Ballmer talk about the cloud, one of the "good" issues, at the Company Meeting: "So, I don't know, smuggle in a bunch of tequila and limes and whenever THE CLOUD comes up take another hit. That will at least make it palatable... in a numb, doesn't-seem-to-hurt-quite-like-it-did sort of way." If Ballmer cared about his company, then he might realize it's not a good thing if your employees must drink themselves to numbness to listen to the big boss.
Another "good" was listed as "XBOX Kinect blew it away this past Holiday, over 35M customers now pay for the privilege of XBox Live." That's true, but calling it a "privilege" irks me. If I paid for it, then it was my choice but is a "service" not a privilege. How very TSA-minded of Microsoft; TSA as in the outrageous-money-you-doled-out-for-an-airline-ticket is not enough since "flying is a privilege" . . . P.S. let us up feel you up or else. Or how about TSA-mandated questioning "you will answer if you want the privilege of flying?" The whole Microsoft-experience-as-a-privilege irritates me to no end, since if I pay for Windows or a new device with Windows on it, then you bet your sweet hiney that I expect to be able to control that "privileged" experience. It's not reimagined if it's considered a privilege but being pushed through PR as if it's about users' choices and control.
The Big M's recently announced intent to offer users the ability to sign into Windows 8 with a Windows Live ID, makes it appear as if the software giant might be trying to offer "choice" which would indeed be "reminaging" Microsoft and Windows. The MSDN Building Windows 8 post begins, "Each Windows user wants to have the ability to set up and use a PC in a way that is unique to them." By using Live ID to ensure a "truly personal experience that seamlessly bridges their online and offline tasks" across "devices, apps, and services," then "your Windows 8 experience is in your control." The control to sync will be handy and a time saver to users and IT admins "to control what a user can sync to a work PC through group policy."
In fact, I will tip my hat at Microsoft saying, "We understand that when using services connected to the cloud, privacy and security are on the top of your mind." Yet I might scoff and scuff my sneaker by kicking at the "reimagining" Windows 8 experience that is all about end user choices and control. Personally, I'd like to "reimagine" a Windows 8 experience that will ensure the choice of dual-booting; ensure that the choice of swapping graphic cards, network cards, other hardware or drivers will be entirely within my control . . . not left to the whims of manufacturers in an "OEM ecosystem to provide customers with this flexibility."
Maybe you needed to have been off the grid to not yet know this, but Windows 8 will include a feature called Secure Boot which will allegedly keep malware from booting up before the OS boots. While Microsoft believes the big picture of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) secure boot is "no compromises on security," it could also conveniently help lock out pirates and potentially lock out Linux lovers. In reply to users who want to dual-boot Linux/Windows, Microsoft said UEFI-enabled secure boot, and disabling it, will be left to PC manufacturers. In fact listed under "Who is in control," it states, "OEMs are free to choose how to enable this support and can further customize the parameters as described above in an effort to deliver unique value propositions to their customers."
Wait . . . what? But I thought Windows 8 was all about freedom to make the OS an experience in an end user's control? Ok, so Windows 8 might be, but it's on the OEM to not leave choices about what else can be done to a PC? Leaving those choices to a hardware manufacturer who may be more inclined to make Microsoft happy than to cater to user choice is BS!
When talking about UEFI secure boot, Matthew Garrett, a Linux developer at Red Hat, said "The end user is not guaranteed the ability to disable this functionality. The end user is not guaranteed that their system will include the signing keys that would be required for them to swap their graphics card for one from another vendor, or replace their network card and still be able to netboot, or install a newer SATA controller and have it recognize their hard drive in the firmware. The end user is no longer in control of their PC."
If Microsoft wants to make Windows 8 and your mobile phone a "Swiss Army Knife," then it should allow users, not OEMs, to cut out the heart of Windows 8 secure boot and turn it off if users so desire. At least that's how I "reimagine" it . . . Just as it seems Microsoft employees want to reimagine Microsoft without Ballmer.
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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