‘Windows Genuine Advantage’? Bah, humbug!

This morning’s Observer column

I wonder if anyone in the Microsoft empire has ever read George Orwell’s essay on ‘Politics and the English Language’, that admirable meditation on the ways in which language can be used to obscure inconvenient truths. Consider his observation that ‘modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists of gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.’

The Microsoft humbug division has been working overtime in recent years. Example: Windows ‘Plays for Sure’ – a standard which, according to the company, ‘makes it easy to find digital media stores and devices that work together’. In fact, it’s just a euphemism for the particular digital rights management (DRM) system they’re using with Windows Media, and is essentially Microsoft’s attempt to counter the dominance of Apple’s iTunes Music Store (which in turn employs its own distinctive ‘plays for sure – but only on iPods’ DRM system). It would perhaps be more accurate to say that Microsoft ‘Plays for Sure’ really means ‘plays on Windows-based platforms’, but that would involve telling the truth…