Monday, January 13, 2014

How Windows 8 is like Obamacare

Let's get one thing straight, this article isn't meant to be an attempt to be flippant about either topic Rather it's about mandates. 

Mandates rarely come without causing someone pain.  Does the pain of a failed operating system rival that of a botched Universal Healthcare mandate?  Unquestionably not but this isn't about equivalence, it's about arrogance.

Windows 8 was launched with great fanfare.  Preceded by not one but two public betas designed to blunt the inevitable shock by a customer base soon to lose their beloved Start Menu.  At the time Microsoft's two Steve's, Ballmer and Sinofsky, touted the gospel of one OS to rule them all.  Even if that wasn't quite true.  

The Windows on your phone wasn't the same as the one on your PC and neither was the one that graced your shiny new Surface RT.

But wait, for some strange reason, nobody wanted the Surface RT or Windows Phone...

Apparently the same went for Windows 8.

It was too much too fast.  A mandate by Goliath to David.  A directive handed down promising an end to our computing tedium and liberation from the evils of multiple platforms.  Remember what I said about not being quite true?

Let's switch from Redmond Washington to the Washington everyone cares about.  The one with D.C. in the name.  The one where the prospect of healthcare for everyone was the dream of Presidents all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  So finally, after years of haggling, backroom deals with insurance industry lobbyists and even a Supreme Court challenge the dream became a reality.

Sort of...

The grand idea came with compromise.  Healthcare for all but still at the whim of a corrupt industry that left the poor bankrupt and the sick unhealed.  It was a mandate after all.  Everyone had to play or be subject to a fine.  There would be websites, exchanges and lip service.  If you liked things the way they were you could continue that way....

except...

You couldn't.  That part about whims of a corrupt industry?  Well, when their policies didn't measure up to the law they simply canceled them.  No warning, no notice, just a curt letter.  The claim was that the policies didn't meet muster and more expensive options were the only answer aside from no coverage at all. 

Oh what political hay was made.  Endless prattle about promises broken and families harmed soon ensued.  Meaningless, all of it.  The bottom line was a mandate executed by the executioners with the blessings of the government via flawed public policy.  It all made for glittering sound bites but the result fell short.

Employers railed against the changes claiming crippling costs to provide adequate care and vows to reduce costs on the backs of their laborers.  Even if it meant reducing the labor force itself, suppressing  wages or cutting hours to do it.  It was true costs were spiraling out of control but not because the concept of healthcare for everyone became law.  It was because the moneychangers collecting the bills demanded more.  Something's got to give and it wasn't going to be the insurance industry. 

Employers claimed an unfair burden of their employees healthcare costs but to those in their charge the employer is the only option.   Nobody making minimum wage could shoulder the costs of an individual policy that often exceeded their month's wages.

We blame the ideology instead of the real problem, the insurance companies.  It wasn't the government, well, actually it was because they let it happen.  Ultimately, however, the blame lay squarely at the feet of the messenger (the moneychangers) and they still wanted their share.  Now they had the law to get it for them. 

Nobody likes a mandate and rebellion will soon ensue either subtle or gross.  Tell someone that touch screens and tiles are how you must use a computer from now on and expect some blowback.

Tell insurance companies that they must cover everyone but do nothing to keep them honest and you end up with the healthcare mess we have now.

The similarities are staggering...

Yes, Windows is just an operating system while healthcare is often a case of life or death but the fumble is the same. 

A change in the way we work with our technology was long overdue, Windows 8 showed us a glimpse of a better future.  So too was Universal healthcare but like the ill fated operating system it was a glittering promise that couldn't deliver.  At least not as it is now.


In the case of Windows you could always just stick with the old version or wait for Microsoft to fix their error in judgment with Windows 9.  Not so with Universal Health care, there's no turning back the clock regardless of what the politicians say.   But just like any version of Windows, expect a slew of "patches" in an attempt to make things better.