Backstage: Microsoft’s Longhorn and the iPod

I’ve been busy with more important things this past week, but I couldn’t help but comment briefly on the latest oafish proclamation from Microsoft, the promise of a new feature in their Longhorn (Windows 2006) operating system that will – in their words – keep iPods from stealing data from PCs or unleashing virus attacks on business networks. (Edit: Alternate link for story. Search for “Microsoft claims”.)

“Wait a second,” you’re saying, “no one really uses iPods to steal data from PCs or unleash virus attacks.

That’s just insane.” And of course, you’re correct. The average PC virus gets sent through e-mail, fits on a floppy disk (say nothing of a CD-R), and by no means needs an iPod for any stage of its transmission. Plus, everyone knows it would be a hell of a lot easier to attack or steal from the average PC with a non-iPod portable device (say, a USB key) that installs its own PC drivers.

Each of these facts will be just as true in 2006, assuming nothing changes and we’re not all driving flying cars and eating Soylent Green by then. So why, then, would Microsoft say it’s securing its new operating system against Attack By iPod?

It’s obvious – to (a) smear the iPod’s good name while (b) providing a convenient excuse to make another Windows OS that rejects or screws with competitors’ products and (c) distracting people from discussing the huge virus problems that already plague Windows machines. Since Microsoft can’t stop people from infecting PCs with virus-laden e-mails (attacks that come 40 times a day) or stealing data through the Internet (which doesn’t even require that someone sneak up and attach an iPod to your computer), they’ll just invent a problem that they can solve.