This article is an examination of what "free enterprise" has done for our lives.
If you're a Windows XP user who has delayed the dreaded Microsoft OS "upgrades" because they are frequently bombs, you are facing an excruciating torture session in April, 2014, when Microsoft will declare XP officially dead. Here's what this milestone means to Microsoft's captive audience.
In 1Q13, Windows XP's market share of the OS market was 38.31 percent, following Windows 7 which commanded 44.72 percent. The usage of Windows XP has dropped to some degree over the past year, but not as much as Microsoft would probably like. In June 2012, the platform owned 43.61 percent of the market, and by December it still retained 39.08 percent. That said, Microsoft has a long way to go before Windows XP is completely out of the picture.
In 2011 400 million PCs were sold. Let's say, just for talking purposes, that at termination of XP there will be 400x10^6x0.3831 = 153,240,000 units that must upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. (The actual number of XP machines out there is far greater, but this crude estimate will do to make my point.)
My computer repair guy says that it would take a smart user 2 weeks of training to get facile enough with the new OS to the extent that he could be writing his book, building his spreadsheets, etc. without the distraction and frustration of having to learn how to do things using the new OS. Assume that he doesn't spend time or money reinstalling current apps and installing new ones needed because of the "upgrade". So...we've got 153,240,000x80 = 12.259200 billion man-hours that must be used and paid for to get everyone now using XP back to their previous productivity level. At, say, $20/man hour that's a cost of $245.184 billion--all borne by the employer, who used to employ secretaries to turn out reports, proposals, etc. How's that lookin' to ya, Mr. CEO?
What if, instead, all "upgrades" were expected to be worthy of the name, providing enhanced worker efficiency--no lemon versions? And suppose the upgrades were expected to be downward compatible, so that no apps would die because of the "upgrade". There was a time when this was an option for Microsoft and Apple. Apple took the option (at least in the beginning), and Microsoft did not. Instead, Microsoft dreamed of a captive market with no options for customers regardless of consumer cost (Microsoft's profit). They decided that software would be designed by hackers (not degreed software engineers) who had no use for elegant code, stability of code, maintainable code, documented, modular code. They just pasted their new code over the old, left the old command structure in place, adding new controls to accommodate the new functionality being added, and shoved the "upgrade" versions of their Microsoft applications out the door as quickly and cheaply as possible using paying customers' complaints to serve beta version needs.
In other words, Microsoft figured their best strategy was to concentrate on locking in the client base as prisoners and milking them for all they could while maximizing profits. To hell with reliability, stability, longevity, sturdiness, efficiency of code, etc.. Make 'em pay every day if possible. To hell with users and their needs.
As a result we have planned obsolescence and shitty products. If a new Windows version is a crappy "upgrade" its crappiness will only create a better market for the next "upgrade". Let Microsoft Office grow in size. No problem. Disk space is no limiting factor.
This is a prison we're living in, folks, not a well-functioning free market with all its touted benefits.
End of rant.
I am a retired physicist and hold a B.S. in Ch. E. as well. I have been an environmental activist since the early 1970s. I have been a writer of opinion pieces and other essays since about 1995 and am a published author of history. I have studied monetary systems since 1968.
I am an owner of a home with mineral rights in Fort Worth, Texas. I am politically a progressive. As a technical advisor to a select committee of the Philmont Staff Association from 2006-2008 I studied the technology of horizontal gas drilling and the environmental effects associated with it. In Fort Worth I am an activist against urban gas drilling.