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Friday, 21 October 2016 12:55

Nadella's trust talk is just so much hot air Featured

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Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella appears to have an incredibly short memory. Else he would be the last person who talks about trust being the most pressing issue in tech in our times.

Over the last year, we have been treated to a variety of cheap tricks by Microsoft, attempting to hoodwink Windows users left, right and centre in order to get them to upgrade to Windows 10. After that, talking about trust sounds odd. Very odd.

Microsoft does not have the best reputation among tech companies. It is known for predatory practices, for being convicted as a monopolist, and in recent times has been trying to cultivate a softer image as a company that is not as rapacious as it once was.

That has, in large measure, come about as its influence and rank in the world of computing have both slipped, with other companies like Apple, Facebook and Google coming to dominate.

Nadella, himself, has been the recipient of favourable media coverage. There is one reason for this: he is not Steve Ballmer. Anyone who had anything to do with the former CEO of Microsoft would appreciate, in spades, the demeanour and approach taken by Nadella.

It is something like what Barack Obama experienced when he was elected as US president back in 2008. People liked him just because he was not George W. Bush. In fact, politicians in Europe liked him so much that he was given a Nobel Peace Prize – and nobody knows why. Even Obama is aware of this, which is perhaps why he made a jocular reference to it when he was put through a mock job interview (video above) by the Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, recently.

But I digress. Back to Nadella. We have no idea when or where he made these remarks because the source is not identified. But if anyone takes him seriously, then they'd have to be smoking some pretty strong stuff.

Every tech company CEO makes these motherhood statements from time to time. I've lost count of the number of times that Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, has parroted on about the openness of his company, painting it as being one rung below the promised land.

But ask Red Hat about why it does business with the NSA, providing official support for the spy organisation to indulge in global surveillance, and the gates are shut. Openness is not anywhere in evidence.

We'll continue to see similar motherhood statements from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet head Eric Schmidt, Apple chief Tim Cook and others. We mustn't forget the man who preceded them all, the co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, now the richest man on the globe.

Anyone who takes them seriously is to be pitied. The depredations that these men (and yes, they are all middle-aged white men) have wreaked on ordinary users of computing devices would take centuries to relate.

Doubtless, while we reside on this planet and work for this company or that, we have to use computing devices for one reason or the other. But being sold on one device or another, coming to believe that they are our salvation – that is a dangerous road to go down.

Everyone is out to make a buck. Have that as a watchword and move on.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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