The world cannot afford Codezillas: The case for a Government OS
Enough! The computer industry is no longer a marginal hobby market where nerds would spend hours poring over green CGA monitors in their basements trying to perfect the Assembler code necessary to get their dot matrix printers to spew out a letter. Personal computing is now at the very heart of the globalized world economy, and the prospect of any major interruption in that planetary paradigm would be disastrous indeed. Computers control everything from corner stoplights to stock markets to nuclear powerplants. When you consider that the vast majority of these critical systems are operating under a completely privately-held Operating System controlled by a single company, you slowly come to the realization that the greatest single potential threat to the future well-being of the world resides on a campus in Redmond, Washington.
Operating Systems have undergone a metamorphosis from the necessary basic code required to allow applications to operate on a binary processing system to absurdly bloated Codezillas composed of billions of lines of convoluted code that no sane programmer could ever unravel given unlimited Red Bull and the entire next millennium.
An OS is not at all what we know them today to be: platforms incorporating browsers, word processors, system utilities, indexing functions, security, firewall, and the rest of what should firmly reside in the realm of applications. An OS should be only a basic platform which will allow the PC to boot up and provide the necessary data interaction to run applications, whether they be 3D rendering or notepads.
Corporate greed and myopia have changed the common sense definition of an OS to take up endless Gigabytes of gobbledigook that not only is not required by most users but that they are forced to pay for handsomely. In all my years of computing, I've never used the On-Screen Keyboard, Narrator, Remote Desktop Connection, Hyperterminal, Magnifier, Paint, or most of the rest of the thick sheaf of applications that Microsoft has seen fit to package into its OSes, but I've certainly paid for them, over and over and over again. I've likely purchased more than 20 Windows CDs since my first Win 3.1 which means that I've written a check for useless, unnecessary and completely gratuitous junk that I have never touched twenty times over.
The most important factor, however, is not the forced purchasing of obese, unmanageable monster monoliths of code. It is that the world cannot possibly afford to leave what may be the single most critical element in today's socio-political and macroeconomic infrastructure in the hands of profit-driven billionaires. If, for example, Microsoft were to embed a little snippet of code which would call for every Windows OS to irrevocably turn itself off on January 1, 2009 if the user didn't immediately send a check for $250 or $500 or more to Redmond, who could stop them? Similarly, what would stop terrorists from infiltrating the Microsoft campus and inserting code to shut down all Windows forever? The wreckage of the developed world's economies would be dozens of orders of magnitude greater than that suffered by the 9/11 attacks.
In previous generations, governments have always stepped in to protect their citizens from the ravages of runaway monopolies, yet there has never been a monopoly so insidious as to threaten the continued existence of the civilized world's most basic structures, all the way from the British East India Company to Standard Oil. Yet Microsoft's steel grasp over the world's Operating Systems can clearly be called such a monopoly. And it is a clear and present danger which the world can no longer afford to accept.
The main argument that there are other competing Operating Systems in the world is irrelevant. There are many alternatives to automobiles, including skateboards and hush puppies, but none of them are likely to supplant the necessity for billions of people to drive to work every day in a car. When you have what is well nigh effectively every personal and business computer on the planet running one OS, it is time to squelch that monopoly and protect the global population from the vagaries of a corporate boardroom which controls their lives.
I never voted for Mr. Gates or Mr. Ballmer (gasp!) to be Emperor of the World. It's time that they were overthrown.
A basic, completely Windows-application compliant Operating System should be devised by a joint United Nations task force. No need for web browsers or media players or even notepads in this OS. Those can be purchased freely as the user deems suitable, even in packages which duplicate the current XP or Vista offerings. The basic point is that it would be "as the user deems suitable," not as billionaire geeks deem necessary.
No need to fear a "GovOS" written by a committee of politicians. There are more than enough expert programmers in the world who can contribute to this OS (not on an Open Source volunteer basis, but fully paid) and make certain that it fulfills the stated requirements:
"Design and implement a completely basic, bare bones 32-bit and 64-bit Operating System which allows all current Windows XP and Vista compliant applications to operate in a similar manner as they currently do on Microsoft software."
This OS would be globally legislated to be preinstalled at absolutely no charge on each and every personal computer on Earth. Again, if you wish to use Linux or OS X or Windows Seven, you're free to buy that too. If you want to take your new computer home and the first thing you do to it is hit the "Delete GovOS" button, then you can do that. But the days when a PC is sold to a customer without any existing OS past the BIOS screen would end forever. You want to have your PC do nothing but browse the web? Fine. Buy a web browser for a few bucks and off you go. You want to run the full Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection? Then shell out your $2,500 and go work on it. Your computer is your computer and you choose exactly what's on it.
What about Microsoft's legal rights to the underpinnings of their OS? In the immortal words of Michele Corleone "this is the price you pay for the life you choose." They have benefited from it long enough and hoarded up a more than a significant chunk of the planet's wealth already. For the benefit of humanity, that code should now be in the Public Domain. They can continue to market their Windows Seven and Eight and Nine and So On Operating Systems as full packages that ride atop the GovOS complete with their choice (not anti-trust agencies') of what browsers, players, utilities, etc. they wish to include. Microsoft might even welcome that freedom from the constant battles and fines it has to be subjected to around the world. They likely will continue to make untold billions of dollars as there is a considerable percentage of the current installed base that will want to continue with running a morbidly obese OS, pirates would find little need to steal an OS if a perfectly capable one is already included free on all PCs, and Apple/Linux/etc. enthusiasts will most certainly want to continue with their OS of evangelistic choice. The huge difference will be that the core functions of the basic and profoundly important functions of computers everywhere will no longer be existing at the whim of ultra-rich megalomaniacs who are only interested in milking the world's population out of billions and trillions of their dollars.
Personal computing has reached a level of planetary omnipresence where it is now a critical global security issue. The GovOS is an idea whose time is overdue.