It's no secret that Windows Phone is struggling desperately in the battle against the smartphone leaders, iPhone and Android. And desperate times demand desperate measures; but even so, this move by Microsoft is pretty extraordinary:
More malware on Android! bit.ly/rt7dpD Been hit? Share yr #droidrage story to win a @windowsphone upgrade. 5 best (worst?) win!
That came from @BenThePCGuy, who is "Microsoft's Windows Phone (and Windows PC) Evangelist."
Now, it's certainly true that Android malware has become more of a problem recently, and that more needs to be done to combat it. But we need to put this in context. For example, here are some statistics from the "ITU Study on the Financial Aspects of Network Security: Malware and Spam" [.pdf]. That dates from 2008, but I think the orders of magnitude are still valid:
Based on information collected from 2,000 participants in its 2006 State of the Net survey, Consumer Reports projected total losses [due to malware] for U.S. consumers of US$ 7.1 billion. 1 in 5 consumers reported problems with viruses, causing costs of US$ 3.3 billion. Fixing problems caused by spyware cost consumers UD$ 1.7 billion and losses from phishing attacks amounted to US$ 3.1 billion. The total damage in 2006 was down from the estimated US$ 8.4 billion in 2005.
Another estimate for the U.S. aimed at quantifying the direct damages to repair or replace information systems infected with viruses and spyware. According to the report, consumers paid nearly US$ 7.5 billion over two years to repair or replace hardware.
So there is a general consensus that malware cost US consumers around $7 billion per year. Now, the interesting thing is that unlike the business sector, where things are more complicated, in the world of consumers, one platform reigns supreme: Windows. Microsoft's software utterly dominates the desktop world, which means that Microsoft is responsible for the vast majority of that $7 billion cost to consumers. And remember, that's an annual cost: over the years we're probably talking about tens of billions of dollars of damage caused to customers by flaws in Microsoft products that have allowed malware to flourish.
So Microsoft's call for "droidrage" stories on Android comes across not just as a rather feeble attempt to divert people's attention from Windows Phone's abysmal showing in the smartphone market, but also as deeply hypocritical: if there is any platform that deserves a "rage" tag, it's Windows, thanks to the tens of billions of dollars of harm it has inflicted on its users.
So how about it? Should people be tweeting their "winrage" stories every time they get a virus or a Blue Screen of Death? Should Mark Shuttleworth be offering to send free Ubuntu CDs to everyone thus afflicted? I don't think so.
After all, as the ITU study makes plain, Microsoft malware is so pervasive that the volume of these #winrage tweets would drown out everything else, rendering Twitter unusable, and increasing the collateral damage that flaws in Microsoft software cause to the world of computing yet further.