The Microsoft Death Toll

(C) 2009 Hank Wallace

I was speculating with a friend about the amount of time wasted every day by users of Microsoft products. My computer takes about ten minutes to boot up in the morning (until all the background grinding stops), and every time I start an application time is wasted, even if the PC is apparently doing nothing else at the time. These are the typical delays we have come to know and hate, all brought to us by the Lord of the Technical Universe, Bill (may he live forever) Gates.

Thinking back on all the various ways in which Microsoft has wasted minutes out of my short life, I came up with a few examples:

  • The incident where I took the advice of a Microsoft “MVP” (whatever that is) and “cleaned” my registry with a Microsoft tool, destroying it in the process. Time wasted: 2 days.
  • The time my PC refused to shut down, or would take a half hour to turn off. That was caused by a Microsoft update that was brain damaged, and it took quite a while to find and kill. Time wasted: 6 hours.
  • When porting a Windows CE application to Windows Mobile 6, I found that the previously working program would not display any dialog boxes. That’s right, Microsoft had broken dialog boxes when they created Windows Mobile 6. Time to find the offending instance of Microsoft stupidity: 1 day. Time to find a decent fix: 4 hours.
  • Any encounter with Microsoft ActiveSync. Time wasted: 3 hours apiece. (Just for fun, Google the term “Active Stink.”)

These instances happen on a weekly basis. This list could go on forever, but that would be counterproductive. Many a Microsoft customer knows exactly what I’m talking about here.

But of course, there are computer users out there who have no idea that they are wasting massive amounts of time. Most office assistants don’t know that it’s totally silly that you should have to fix a font setting every time you paste text from one document into another. That’s a Microsoft bug that is perpetuated through every version of Microsoft Word. But they just waste the time to fix the screwed up text and move on, as if that’s normal.

How much paper to we waste each year due to the poor design of print setup facilities in Windows and Microsoft programs? Tons? But I digress.

Let’s be conservative and estimate that every one of Microsoft’s 500 million customers worldwide wastes 10 minutes of every day due to booting, use of a mouse, bugs and the asinine design of their software products. How much total time is wasted every day?

It amounts to 5 billion minutes of wasted time per day. Do the math and you will find that equals over 9500 man-years, every day! If the average lifespan of those unfortunate computer users is 70 years, then every day of the week Microsoft idiocy wastes 135 LIFETIMES.

Do you get the significance? Every day, the poor design, shoddy implementation, and buggy construction of Microsoft products sends the equivalent of 135 people to the grave!

Now let’s say that you and I manufacture cars that are defective, and through no fault of the drivers 135 people die every day as a result of driving them. Would that be a problem? You bet it would be! Cue the attack lawyers.

But when Microsoft does such sloppy work on their operating systems and software that 135 people die every day, it’s no big deal because the death and destruction are spread across 500 million suckers (uh, customers) worldwide, 10 minutes per day.

Microsoft has been in business since the early 1980’s, but they really did not get good at killing people until about 1990, with the advent of Windows 3.1. They reached the 500 million customer mark perhaps in 2000. If we multiply 135 people per day by the number of days just since January 1, 2000, (until mid-2009) the total death toll on planet Earth from the use of Microsoft products is about 468,000. They’ve killed the population of a decent sized city in that time, all with word processing, Internet Explorer, and security updates. That figure is a hundred times the Coalition death toll in Iraq, but I don’t see any peace and love hippies protesting in Berkeley.

Picture, if you will, that we cut in half the number of lifetimes and then allocate twice the wasted time to each remaining victim. You walk into your office, and there, in the ergonomically designed office chair, sitting in front of the ergonomically designed computer workstation, with the award winning Microsoft mouse in his right hand, sits one of the 67.5 dessicated corpses (per day) who wasted his entire lifetime on Microsoft products, and is now spending another 70 years in Microsoft hell waiting for his computer to boot while cockroaches sniff his powdery carcass and decline due to lack of flavor. Just picture it.

If you are responsible for creating a product or service, or serving customers (and who isn’t?), consider that your efforts are either giving life, or giving death.

Author Biography

Hank Wallace is the owner of Atlantic Quality Design, Inc., a consulting firm located in Fincastle, Virginia. He has experience in many areas of embedded software and hardware development, and system design. See for more information.