IT apologies mask sorry state of affairs

Can you ever trust someone who never says sorry?

Sorry isn't a word often associated with Microsoft, unless you're looking to describe the state of Internet Explorer's security. So the apology it delivered to Startpagina.nl after mistaking the search engine for a source of spyware is quite a collector's item. Microsoft deserves some credit for this rare display of penitence, but really this should just be the start.

Some of the worst unrepented sins are the oldest. How about a belated mea culpa for the QDOS/MS-DOS shenanigans? Rather than snapping up Tim Paterson's Quick and Dirty Operating System, William H. Gates III should have put in the hard work and written ERUDOS – the Extendable, Robust, Usable and well-Documented Operating System. If Microsoft had done the job right the first time, then the PC could have been as delightful to use as the Mac and Gates might be rich and famous by now.

IBM can join Microsoft in the confessional, for the heinous crime of letting Redmond's finest get away with it and handing them their desktop OS monopoly on a plate. Five Hail Turings a day for both of them.

And let's not forget Apple. It may have seen the GUI shamelessly lifted by Microsoft for Windows (better make that 10 Hail Turings), but it can hardly complain after, well, liberating Xerox's graphical user interface in the Mac. Xerox at least has had the good grace to come clean over its less than stellar exploitation of its own ideas.

And closer to home, there's a serial offender with a charge sheet that stretches nearly as far as its network. Not only has BT never apologised for taking so long to take broadband seriously, it's unrepentant for its failure to unbundle the local loop. While its inefficient systems prevent other operators getting hold of its customers, BT charges on with the 21st Century Network project. No wonder its rivals fear a new monopoly when BT never held its hand up for holding up Broadband Britain.

So this year's fashion accessories for the go-getting tech titan should be sackcloth and ashes. Microsoft's started the ball rolling; surely its rivals won't let Bill Gates have a monopoly on apologies?

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