I'm not a man able to resist cheap innuendo. I'm also criminally culpable when it comes to making crude jibes aimed at big companies who spend billions on their image. Thus the news that Microsoft is looking for beta testers to help polish its OneCare service is an irresistible cue to start rolling the name around in a comedy French accent. You can hear the telephone support lines in Montreal now: "'Ello, Ouancare! 'Ow may I 'elp you?". A similar fate famously befell Wang Laboratories and its Wang Care customer support programme, which was reputedly given a global launch without any local subsidiaries being given the chance to comment on its universal applicability. Still, if Microsoft insists, who are we to argue the toss? I'm sure the marketing department will be able to stick up for it.
As for the service itself: here's how Microsoft describes it. "Windows OneCare is being designed to address core safety concerns such as worms, viruses and spyware, but also to span broader PC health issues: helping protect electronic assets such as digital photos, music, financial data and software; and guarding against performance degradation and system clutter that can result from heavy use." Heavy use, eh? I don't recall anything in the licence agreement that said Windows wasn't suitable for heavy use. I'd always imagined that the amount of cruft that Windows accrues in so many obscure, unmanageable and irresistible ways was due to poor operating system design. Come to think of it, all those worms, viruses and spyware seem to prosper for similar reasons — and is Microsoft really saying that without OneCare Windows isn't suitable for "protecting electronic assets"?
Similarly, other promised boons such as "automatic periodic maintenance tasks" including defragmentation, disk clean-up and file system repair are all in Windows already. It's true that they're not particularly easy to use for the non-technical, but why is the company flogging a product into that market without the sort of usability required?
There's a glimmer of hope in an automated backup and restore system — although anyone who tried to use MS-DOS's utilities of the same name will be twitching already — but even here it's half-hearted. It works by using local CDs and DVDs, which just aren't up to the job. A decent automatic file security system that ran over broadband would indeed be useful, but there's no sign of that.
It does seem as if Microsoft is busy trying to sell a subscription service that fixes problems of its own creation. We'll have to wait and see whether this is the case, but meanwhile I'd like to suggest an advertising slogan the company could use to get across the thrust of its idea.
Microsoft Windows. It's all about the OneCare.