‘Henry’ Gates and the Model-T PC

This morning’s Observer column

Many of the PCs in people’s homes are riddled with a rich ecosystem of viruses, worms, trojans, adware and spyware which exploit flaws in Microsoft software. While most companies escape the worst of these pestilences because they employ expensive IT support staff and robust defence measures, the average home user remains hopelessly exposed. In his keynote address, Gates finally acknowledged that his company bears a large responsibility in this area – which is great news. But in the same breath he went on to say that the ‘entire computing industry’ needs to get together to build a ‘trust ecosystem’. Let us deconstruct that. The problem, it seems, is largely Microsoft’s responsibility; but it’s the industry which has to fix it.

At the same time, Microsoft announced a helpful new service for those embattled home users mentioned earlier. It’s a ‘computer health’ software package called OneCareLive, which includes antivirus programs, automatic updates, back-up prompts and live customer service. It can be installed on up to three computers in a home and will be available from June. Oh – and it costs $49 a year. Neat, eh? Snake oil salesmen, eat your hearts out…