Is the world suddenly developing a conscience?

So happy August. Can’t believe it’s gone so quickly this year. The last couple of days I’ve not really stopped thinking about how quickly attitudes in the world are changing. Some of it is fashionable, sure, but a lot of it isn’t.

I’m certainly becoming more and more aware of doing business with ethical companies. One that certainly isn’t (though they may argue against me) is Microsoft. I notice that they are planning on introducing a personal music player for Christmas called Zune. That’s fine in itself, but they’ve already admitted that they’ll be selling it as a loss leader for some considerable time before that side of the business breaks even. This is even the business model for the XBox. Introduced in 2001, I read that it will be 2007 before it starts to return profits on the investment Redmond put into it.

That is clearly insane, but once you get over that point, it’s strangely paradoxical that the man who started it off, Bill Gates, has his company trample all over any kind of competition (See Apple in this space, Linux increasingly in the computer business, Sony in the games console space) by using their massive corporate cash reserves, whilst donating billions to the poor via his foundation. I truly admire the guy for the latter (surely by now he must have stockpiled everything he wants out of life and is bored and wants to give it away), but I find it hard to stomach that his company pulls on big boots and stamps on smaller businesses whenever they feel like it.

Their response? We’re innovating. Say what? Innovating isn’t rehashing old ideas, or taking five years to slowly evolve a bloated desktop OS, or re-heating Office every few months with one extra feature (which no-one uses) for another £500. Or even buying up industry leading technologies, such as Visio and Great Plains, for example. Innovating my arse. The XBox was largely born because Office and Windows market penetration had reached saturation point and the business needed to diversify to keep the stockholders happy. Now they’ve seen Apple make waves with the iPod/iTunes model, they want a bit of that because it’s something they don’t already do. I do fear that by now there aren’t many people left for them to win over. I resisted the iPod for a long time, but in the end I realised that it was simple, stylish and intuitive (all apart from iTunes, which I think is the worst bit of software ever from a usability perspective).

Using Linux for your computing needs is ethical, because it’s all shared knowledge and power. No one person gets a massive benefit over the other. If you can make an improvement to software, you benefit and then you pass it back for the benefit of others. Totally transparent, no hidden agendas, everybody wins. Built to open standards, and you make sure every man + dog can plug into it later on.

Aside from those people, I believe on maintaining relationships with business suppliers and partners up until the point that they let you down one too many times after you’ve told them. I’ve had a reseller on the phone lately making all kinds of obviously bogus statements about our current Novell partner and basically trying to muscle in on our account. Naturally I told her to get stuffed. If we’re not happy in the current arrangement, we tell them. If we don’t get anywhere, then we move. It’s not like buying gas and electricity!

The world is changing and people are starting to think twice about who they spend their money with and why. Hopefully this will stick, and some ethics will bleed through to the people who matter, such as Tony Blair, who seems to be living inside a bubble. I’ve never felt so badly about the state of British politics since…I can’t remember. With this much material, it’s a shame Spitting Image never made a comeback. Making jokes about it is all we have left.

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