The point that I lost all respect for Bill Gates

I’ve used Windows on every primary computer of mine since 3.1. I’m only a recent convert to OS X, and I still share a desktop with a fast cheap PC running winXP that I devote to all coding. IE was my favorite browser from the days of 4.0 betas until a year or two ago when mozilla surpassed it. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of MS and specifically Bill Gates, but I’ve often defended both the corporation and the man. But my time as a microsoft apologist is over.

After ridiculous comments this week at CES, where Gates equated the last three years of my work with Creative Commons as some sort of Red Menace that needs to be stopped, it’s clear he’s off his rocker. Bill’s spouting lines that make him sound like the new Jack Valenti. From the first Gizmodo interview:

“There’s always a tricky issue when you get into stolen material or pornography…if you get notified that it’s stolen materials or pornography or things like that…The laws for online publishing the same as for print-based publishing.”

Translated: Bill Gates has a talking points team that wants him to equate potential copyright violators with pornographers so he’s sure to mention it twice. The term “potentional copyright violators” while correct, isn’t as forceful as “stolen material” so he repeats that as often as possible too. His last statement makes clear that to him online publishing = print publishing. In other words, intellectual property = physical property and should be treated as such in the eyes of the law, a concept so fraught with problems I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of it all.

I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what Bill’s problem is and it’s pretty simple: Gates is convinced that Microsoft’s version of DRM is the One True Path for MS domination of internet content, and he’s saying anything he can to promote it.

Microsoft missed the internet boat early on, asleep at the wheel until 1996 and has been behind the times on every venture they’ve tried since. They’ve tried to be the king of web publishing, but Dreamweaver owns that. They tried to be an ISP but AOL is still in front. IM? AOL is crushing them again. Passport was supposed to give MS control of every login on the web, but it turns out people didn’t trust nor like it. They’ve tried search over and over, but Google is still the clear king. They’re the newest johnny-come-lately to blogging and they don’t stand a chance against Blogger, MT, WordPress and everything else that came before.

This isn’t the One True Way, it Bill’s Last Chance. The last chance that MS has to try and make a ploy for control of all music, movies, photos, and text shared online from content companies by slapping some crappy rights-restricting wrapper on it all and taking a cut for MS.

There are a few obvious problems with that. Apple’s iTunes music store and Apple’s DRM works just fine for millions of folks, and the most popular music player since the walkman doesn’t play MS’ files. The internet is doing a damn fine job of letting musicians, filmmakers, authors, and photographers share their work openly, without any DRM of any kind. And the clear message from anyone that has ever been blocked from doing something completely benign with their files is that people won’t stand for DRM that gets in their way and makes them feel like they’re merely leasing content instead of buying. But MS keeps pushing it anyway.

Sorry Bill, you’re going to lose this battle like you lost every other internet play you’ve dipped a toe into.

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