Microsoft

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all evil but we're okay with that

Microsoft's claim to the evil empire moniker is being challenged by both Apple and Google. A recent TechRepublic poll indicates the only consensus is that we should be more concerned.

For many years, the Microsoft Corporation has been the designated "evil corporation" of the technology universe. Some of that reputation was probably earned, but much was just hyperbole directed at a very successful software company.

Well, according to a recent TechRepublic poll, Microsoft's claim to the evil empire moniker is being challenged by both Apple and Google.

Poll: Has Microsoft lost its evil corporation status to Google and Apple?

Whether any of this evil talk is warranted is a matter of some debate, but it is apparent that many technology professionals are concerned about the power these companies are able to wield, while even more are worried that there is not enough concern.

Part of the problem may be that there is no consensus on what constitutes "evil" when it comes to corporate policies and actions. Is sharing your Web surfing history with third-party marketers evil, or is tracking your surfing in the first place the problem? Why is either a problem? What is the evil being done and are we concerned about these questions as much as we should be?

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

42 comments
Wd40dry
Wd40dry

Well, count on this year, 2011, being the one that brings down and into the light all the old monopoly corporations. This only applies to one under discussion here. Those most enlightened ones like Apple and Google could easily go too ~ unless they start actually working to benefit their clients. This is not likely, so we must move forward with all speed into a New Golden Age. Yes, this year, 2011 will be the one where new technologies blow off your socks. Long suppressed and held back ~ holding all of us back ~ as well, are those like Microsoft who would rather spend ill earned treasure to cause genocide throughout the world by poisonous vaccines than enlighten and assist us. These words may mean little now, but let's get together again at the end of the year and see where we are then. Meanwhile buy new socks, popcorn, an easy chair, and settle back for the greatest show on Earth or in the Heavens as well. BTW, I am using a Mac Air to write this and have nothing but praise for Apple and Google. Google is my homepage. Stay tuned my dearest ones! xoxoxox

adornoe
adornoe

because, that's the only place where you can lose any and all of your freedoms. No corporation can take from you what you don't willingly give them. If any company strikes you as evil and greedy and selfish, most likely, you don't have to do business with them. On the government side, you don't have redundant alternatives, and you're stuck with abiding by its rules and regulations and laws and violations of any and all of your freedoms and rights. I don't have to deal with Google, yet I do, but, to a very small extent, and I don't give them my private information. Likewise with Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and any other tech company. For now, there are alternatives, and you don't have to put up with any of what you perceive as violations of your privacy. However, if you participate in any of those services, and you suspect or know how evil they are, then the problem belongs on your side of blame.

YO_GARY17
YO_GARY17

You want to talk definitions of evil coporations? how about when a corporation seeks to control your behavior, by attempting to lure you into a greater and greater level of dependence on it, for access to ..say..Your files(data, media, photos),software apps, Operating system, platforms and infra structure? What about when the internet is your only road/access to your files, apps, etc. and someone else controls that road? Amazon, microsoft, google, Apple, etc. all are building those control-clouds, this Computing As A Service- environment, that turns your computer into a peripherial device, like a priinter, keyboard or mouse. It turns control over your access to those how control the road and your computer's resources. Nowwww we are talking evil-doers!

jmackeyiii
jmackeyiii

3-d pie charts are worse... but not as bad as a-bombs. all three of these companies use them and distribute them.

jadams2021
jadams2021

While many complain about the evilness of these companies, lets not forget one solemn fact: we put them their by buying their products in the first place. The short of it is, when we install or utilize their tools, the first thing read is the terms/conditions, which like most, no one reads. Reminds me of the South Park episode call HumancentiPad. It may be that these corporations are evil. If you want to stop the evilness sue them for breaking their own terms/conditions, or don't purchase the product and use what they provide. We all have a choice.

l.kobiernicki
l.kobiernicki

Sometimes it seems these features-writers are simply cheerleaders/praise-leaders for the corps. that invade our private lives with their nightmares of power/control over all. If they are, I for one, don't want to know. What is praiseworthy, is a principled stand, marking the limits of what people should - or are prepared to - tolerate. Monstercorp. Inc. ( whatever it's called ) is nothing of significance in itself - merely, as already said, a horrid nightmare, from which to awaken in deflating the monomanias ...

bsmi021
bsmi021

I feel that this whole issue of just these three tech company's being evil is worn out, how about the bankers, wall street,and other big business (who do not pay taxes), One person said Facebook, anther said twitter and myspace. If they are big and trying to gobble up our lives for there pockets $$ should be the point that any business is EVIL!!

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

I believe what we are seeing is the frivolous use of a powerful word to undermine or devalue its true meaning. Now, Tolkien's ringwraiths were evil. All they did was go around terrorizing people. Genocide is evil. A-bombing Hiroshima was evil. How often do we find any corporate entity, or corporate officer, doing something like this? In a world where mass terrorism, genocide, and atomic warfare really exist, those that want these to be seen as a "normal" part of life try to devalue or erode the grossly negative (non-survival) aspects of these activities. And one way is to devalue the words used to describe them. The economic slide we experienced recently is an example of an evil act that some big corporations were involved in. There are other examples. Such actions don't compare to the "evil" of pushing off a product on your customers that doesn't work that well, or attempting legal maneuvers to corner a market. Such actions might not be very ethical, but they aren't way up there with real evil. So we can laugh, I suppose, about which huge IT corporation is committing the most harmful acts. But these corporations are dwarfed by the really big ones on this planet, and their actions are likewise dwarfed by some of the really low things that have been done on this planet. I would prefer the choice of words more appropriate to the deeds.

jck
jck

from a tech standpoint. It is encapsulated, to varying extent, by: A) lack of openness: companies that will either not disclose they are going to do something with information you give *them*, or will put it in such extended legalese that half the American Bar Association would get a headache reading it. B) lack of discretion: they will pawn your info to 0-* buyers/partners, or will put it on databases they get paid for making it available to (I just dealt with this concerning my telephone number and address through the local cable company's IP telephony service). C) method of operation: as long as they're selling you something, the way they get it from the plant to you doesn't matter...whether that means putting 120,000 Americans out of work by putting 50,000 15 and under kids in some developing country to work for $4 a day...or hiring illegal immigrants to clean and stock their stores at night when all the immigration cops are asleep dreaming of catching Lindsay Lohan with drugs. In the tech arena, I'd have to say I agree with some that Facebook has stolen it from Microsoft. Microsoft might be still king of putting out an overpriced, originality-lacking new OS...but, Facebook is the site that goes "Oh I changed the security options and opened up all your data to anyone? Too bad. Login and fix it yourself."

Professor8
Professor8

"Is sharing your web surfing history with third-party marketers evil, or is tracking your surfing in the first place the problem? Why is either a problem?" Initiation of force or fraud is evil: murder, robbery, theft, extortion, kidnapping, slavery, battery, deceptive advertising, plagiarism, "sharing" someone else's intellectual property. The most common violations by tech executives is the taking of other people's property for their own gain. They take information that was loaned for one purpose and using it for a different purpose, and keeping it for longer than absolutely required to accomplish the permitted purpose. I would never voluntarily and without significan compensation or intimidation (threat of force) permit someone to track my web surfing, nor to retain such information, let alone sell it. When I write a post, it's to engage in the conversation/discussion/argument to defend and promote my own positions, not so the posting can be stored and/or analyzed and abused for other purposes (not for advertising, not for employment screening, not for academic psychological or AI or language analysis or syntactic pattern recognition or OCR experiments). It's a problem because it's not YOURS. It's MINE, and you're erroneously assuming that, just because I wish to communicate something to you, that you can abuse it for YOUR purposes and at your whim. Another facet of this discussion is simply low-quality products. They're not necessarily evil, if they're honestly advertised as low-quality products, but that rarely happens. I mean, if you go to a "Dollar" store or WM (since Sam W died), you know you're getting trash that may not work for the purpose even the first time, let alone be reliable; and if it does it's a "miracle". It's the same with, e.g. IBM and MSFT, but they don't advertise their products as trash, so they're engaged in fraud. And the H-1B (and L-1) visa program, similarly, misrepresents all visa grantees as "best and brightest" with "rare skills", when 98% or more of them are mediocre cheap labor doing mediocre cheap work, abused to undermine professional ethics standards and as a screen for age discrimination in the process. Ditto the slick definition of "prevailing wage" which allows paying below market compensation. Ditto the claims of "talent shortage" when no evidence is presented in support of those claims, but much evidence exists counter to them. As to the remark of "info", the reason it's evil and bizarrely so for the government to video-record "civilians" while prohibiting us to video- or audio-record government functionaries, is that the police and bureaubums and elected and other appointed officials are OUR employees, our "public servants", so we have the right and duty to oversee what they do so as to prosecute them for any initiations of force or fraud which they may commit. They, OTOH, are explicitly forbidden access to our effects -- including, IMO, our images and conversations and writings -- unless and until they already have enough information for an allegedly objective and neutral third party (yah, sure) to reasonably believe that we're initiating force or fraud (i.e. probably cause to believe we're engaged in or planning criminal actions).

Professor8
Professor8

And you left out Ill-Begotten Monstrosoties (MSFT merely joined the evil empire; they did not found it) and the now Red Chinese Lenovo, Cisco and their questionable accord with the Red Chinese thug government, FB and LinkedIn and Grouply and the Twits and MySpace, and Oracle. You don't have to be evil to be an executive in or form a corporation or own shares of stock. But what is it with so many executives' (especially tech executives) mean-spirited deep-seated hatred for privacy... and their penchant for dumping gifted US citizens for not very bright or creative, but cheap, pliant guest-workers? Or maybe it's the VC behind it, only investing in firms with executives who have questionable ethics? But then that takes us back around: Why is it that so many people with questionable ethics seem to have venture capital? (Soros comes to mind, but, of course, the ill-gotten gainers from the previous phase re-invest and keep nudging everything to the darker side.) And why is it that so many great firms, with nice executives and great products, have been driven out of business? Why aren't good guys being rewarded and encouraged and being enable to invest in more good on an upward spiral, instead? GrizzledGeezer wrote: "In this case, 'evil' is easily defined. It comprises working against your customers' best interests, with the customers deciding what those interests are." and is right on the mark. P.S. I gave the bird to a StreetView snoop-cam car and yelled "Evil!" at the driver a time or two.

info
info

In a time where State laws are being passed that outlaw the videotaping of police forces by 'civilians' (odd how they use a MILITARY terminology for that) and we allow it, why should the actions of a few software companies really matter?

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

That's Shakespeare. Apple lost whatever good feelings I had for the company when it decided it was okay to lie through its teeth about its and its competitors' products. In this case, "evil" is easily defined. It comprises working against your customers' best interests, with the customers deciding what those interests are.

janicedeane
janicedeane

I'm wondering why FaceBook isn't a part of this discussion? I know people who believe the FaceBook is wayyyyyyyy more evil than the rest combined.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They just exploit their customers in different ways. Fast food joints bribe children with toys. Theater chains let us pay for the privilege of watching ten minutes of advertisements. The petroleum industry hasn't show a loss in decades but still suckles at the taxpayer's teat.

JulietN
JulietN

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all evil?

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Speak for yourself. Most people use the tools in front of them because they work and for no other reason. This does not mean that we should be abused for using the tools that we need. The tools that were made for us. Our concern should be considered by the toolmaker.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Is sharing your Web surfing history with third-party marketers evil, or is tracking your surfing in the first place the problem? Why is either a problem? What is the evil being done and are we concerned about these questions as much as we should be?

JJFitz
JJFitz

to line my hat and keep the evil empires from reading my thoughts.

adornoe
adornoe

have it at a price commensurate with what Apple would charge you, and Google will want to know what traffic goes into and out of that bridge. You are in dire need of enlightenment, and being willfully blind is not the way to go about it.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I am sure there are plenty of political forums available for you to post your feelings about "big government". Let's try to keep this site on topic - Technology.

YO_GARY17
YO_GARY17

Who becomes the Adminstrator on your computer(s) when your Operation System is provided to u As A Service? or Will your log-on signal a set of Group Policies set by someone other than you. Doing what policies do, they will guide how you access and interact with the OS? What happens when your ownership of licenced copies of software, is replaced with Software provided to u As a Service? How 'bout, your programs come to you as APPs? Yes, apps, like the ones you join( or Not) on Facebook, like the ones you download to your phones. No EULA needed, the owner retains full ownership of software, and for applications, you become dependent on the internet and Now, you must also depend on your Service provider, Oh, THe Cloud! :)

random2010
random2010

I_e_cox says "I believe what we are seeing is the frivolous use of a powerful word to undermine or devalue its true meaning. Now, Tolkien's ringwraiths were evil. All they did was go around terrorizing people. Genocide is evil. A-bombing Hiroshima was evil." That is taking the concept of evil to extreme. By comparison, theft is not evil, bullying is not evil, racism is not evil etc etc. I don't buy that. All these things are evil IMHO. By comparing the concept of corporate evil-doings (such as using low paid overseas child labour in order to maximise profit) to the extremes of evil such as A-bombs and genocide seems to me a flimsy rationalisation to justify corporate acts, nothing more. I don't buy the argument, sorry!

Robiisan
Robiisan

And throw in Twitter, MySpace, and the rest of the "social networking" crew.

mckinnej
mckinnej

In fact I'd challenge anyone to name one public company that isn't "evil" in one way or another. NOTE: My generic definition of evil in this case is the company lets the concerns of the shareholders and drive for profits/growth override the common good and goes beyond what a "normal" person would consider acceptable business practices even though it may not break any laws..

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Why should the toolmaker consider our concerns? Particularly if our concerns conflict with another tool provided by that same toolmaker?

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

What is good for me could be seen as evil by an observer. Likewise what one person thinks is doing good for others could be hurting them on accident. Good and evil often have a religious backing to them because all religions will tell you that they know for certain what is good and what is bad. There are places where all of these beliefs cross paths. This is what is important. It is just like science in that when you have a large number of people that agree on something it becomes what is taught. Reality is democratic in this sense. However, the individual retains the right to their opinion. I reject your reality and substitute my own! This makes conversations like this lively and unproductive.

adornoe
adornoe

because, demonizing businesses is mostly a political play, used often to try to win favor for a particular agenda. Corporations are classified as evil and greedy and uncaring, and that happens mostly during election cycles, and it's mostly done by politicians who are looking to gain favor from the voters. However, what I said still remains a fact, and that fact is that, government is still the area of our lives where our freedoms and rights are in most danger of being lost. A corporation, if it's deemed evil by people, will likely lose those people as customers, and there are consequences to losing customers. However, on the government side, there is no such thing as losing customers and people are stuck with dealing with the only government they have. Furthermore, nothing in our lives is without political involvement and repercussions, and that, of course, includes the business sector. What I was trying to say, and which apparently is over your head to understand, is that, things have to be taken in proper perspective, and, though there might be some evil in existence in the business sector, people need to worry a lot more about what government is doing to us.

dblethen
dblethen

Evil, if you want to call it that, is when the executives of a given company attempt to build an empire and don't really care about community or shareholders. The worst part is when they lie to themselves about what they are doing. I'd be willing to bet that Bill Gates thought his Microsoft empire was good for us.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I guess we should consider why the toolmaker made the tool in the first place. Your question suggests that the user is of no importance. They are just dollar signs and numbers. I could just as easily ask why would you feed your cat? (It's symbolic, I don't care if you own a cat)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

"I don't know why they gave me their data... they just did."

Lackosleep
Lackosleep

Remember, from an academic viewpoint, the only duty for business is to create wealth for its shareholders in a [pure] capitalistic economy - not to decide the values of what is good and evil. Morals, morays and values are provided/cultured by (and good and evil determined by) philosophy and religion (usually through the direct manipulation of irrational fear of unprovable personal reprisal). Balance between the goal of capitalistic wealth creation and the constraints to that created by those fear-driven societal values, is the duty of governments - through oversite and regulation. However, outside of that academic perpective, we can understand that in our modern [western] times, much of the historical "unscientific" religious fear has been eliminated by rational science, and so [the church] no longer serves as the primary moral compass for many. Conversely, capitalism has been very successful in creating wealth - so successful that business is able to provide a substitute fear to fill in the void left by the emerging irrelevance of deity reprisal -- fear of personal economic reprisal. If we accept that society's values are largely driven by fear (or the avoidance of), we would expect the regulatory environment and governmental oversite to change, reflecting the desire to avoid our new, driving fear of economic upheaval. New thought would emerge... like "too big to fail", regardless if deemed religiously/philosophically immoral or "evil". And so, the new manipulator of society's fear of personal reprisal, the business, the capitalist, begins to garner more power than the geopolitical governments that are supposed to provide the [neutral] balancing oversite. The demand is simple, as capitalsm has but one goal... "Regulate us favorably to promote our growth of wealth or we will move that wealth elsewhere". The result is exactly what you would expect -- a society beholden to the fear of economic upheaval rather than to the fear of deity reprisal or other philosophical/idealogical inconsitency, and laws reflecting that. The impact of the capitalist economy becomes perverse -- the sole provider of 1) the economic wealth, 2) the societal morals and values, and 3) sole oversite of both. Over time, in the absence of competing [relevant] philosphical/idealogical, religious or other fear inducing ideas, the society ultimately comes to believe that the two -- wealth, and the values that support it, are one and the same, and, therefore (as the article points out), has no need or concern for balance or oversite, as it no longer can discern competing interests. We no longer hear of a capitalist economy, but instead of a capitalist society. hmmm...seems to be right where we are now.

adornoe
adornoe

;) Now, go get an education on the facts about the issues, and you won't suffer from boredom.

JJFitz
JJFitz

should not be taken as a sign of agreement or disagreement but rather that of extreme boredom.

adornoe
adornoe

Look, you can agree with the premise of the argument all you want. I'm not going to spank you for your beliefs. However, taking things in perspective is a much preferred method for an argument. Google and Microsoft and Apple my be evil to those who don't understand the purposes for their existence, but, it doesn't make them evil. Making a profit, to many is evil. But, those many don't realize that, without those evil corporations, millions of people wouldn't have jobs and the world would be a lot poorer and antiquated without what they've produced. On the other hand, the real evil lurks at government levels, where jobs are really destroyed and/or sent overseas, and where corporations are driven out of existence. There really might be greedy and perhaps evil people running corporations, but there is nothing more evil than big government which hampers our lives and destroys the free-market system. The premise of the article is silly and stupid and moronic, and people should not even be arguing the point, whatever the heck it was. What I'm trying to say is that, people should be directing their anger at where the big problems in society stem from, and that's big government.

JJFitz
JJFitz

The topic is Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all evil but we're okay with that. Your input about "big government" is as relevant to the discussion as me saying, "What about the New York Yankees as an evil empire?" It's off topic and redirects the discussion that would be better suited to another type of forum - not this one.

thierry
thierry

Oh so true. And let me apologize for wandering out of the world of Computer and Software and dare ask you: what about McDonalds and Co that make our children into walking grease balls, or all the Oil companies that keep the Motors running and the world an ever hotter place, or the Seed companies that make us eat Genetically modified wheat, and last but not least, the Tobacco Companies, they kill people with their doing. That would be my definition for Evil Company. Nothing Microsoft, Apple or Google ever did or probably will do will compare with the millions of Cancer victims every year, or Heart attack victims, etc. they just make a Buck, that???s all. Mostly I think people are jealous of the success of these companies and just resent the money they are making. And I also don't work for MS, although my Company makes money because of him.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

There are those who agrue that a corporation should have personhood status. A rediculous argument that I do not support. They are at most an idea. An idea is living but it is a product of a person and by that definition it could never become a "real boy" like pinoccio so dearly wanted. The corporation does make decisions, as a group, that no single member would have done alone. Unless it is a sole proprietership in which case the company is but the will of one man. Still, this is not an object.

QAonCall
QAonCall

If you could even begin to fathom the good that was done by the empire (putting aside the 35+billion he is giving away). Computers (ready available easy to use low cost, highly productive type) have revolutionaized the world, and MS put them in everyone's home, hands reach. Your post is representative fo the myopic view of a disgruntled person who cannot see the forest for the trees. Luckily it trailed the definition of evil written in such a subjective manner you could only make it worse. Please post here your real name if you have personally: 1) Given over a billion dollars away in ANY philanthropic endeavor 2) Attempted to erradicate malaria in the third world 3) Built schools to educate in the third world 4) gotten others to donate over a billion dollars 5) Built a super corporation with your own vision and were vitriolically hated for your vision. When Apple or Google (Jobs/Brinn) step up and give Gates their entire fortune after their death, please come back to me and say 'i told you so' otherwise please spare all of us the pathetic 'I would be nicer' speech. Maybe the company was not perfect in every way, but they were/are hardly evil, and the work they have done, and the work done with their creations have made the world, and your life and communities better places, whether you see it or not. BTW, I rarely see inanimate objects (companies) as evil, however, their leaders do stupid and ridiculous things (and even sometimes bad/illegal), that people attribute to the company as a whole. No I do not work for MS, G, A

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

He will lie cheat and steal with utter disregard for how it effects others. It seems like he is the only thing that matters in his little world. A "service" seemingly created for others to communicate is nothing of the sort to him. It is a grotesque venue for voyeurism. His original intent most likely involved college girls. My point is that we should not use him as an example or standard with which to compare other companies. Especially when we are talking about good and evil.

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