Brainwashed by Microsoft

June 23, 2021

“At least it works,” replied a father recently in response to my criticism of the use of MS365 in online classes. It very much irritated me that such a statement came from a “ParentsForFuture” supporter. Obviously, parents who are committed to the issue of climate change for the benefit of their children should not be expected to be aware of their children’s digital dependency at the same time.

However, I wonder how such a statement comes about. Did the person have frustration experiences with non-functioning software? Or did he just pass on other people’s opinions without any thought? Or was he simply not interested in discussions? After all, it should be common knowledge by now that there are good and, above all, well-functioning alternatives to MS365, especially for schools.

Yet another time I was surprised when an administrative employee proudly mentioned that her department would soon be “finally working with Office365”. She actually said this with a kind of pride in her voice, like some people say “I drive Daimler” or “We have a Weber grill, of course”.

I was finally confused when I read in an FAZ article that a student was very passionate about using Microsoft. To this end, he even started a petition “Against the ban of Microsoft products in schools in Baden-Württemberg”, which has received 7000 signatures so far. In fact, there is de facto no ban against Microsoft products in Baden-Württemberg’s schools, but only a recommendation by the state data protection commissioner.

Nevertheless, it seems that Microsoft has not only made it into digital workspaces, but is also invasively making itself comfortable in heads at the same time: Brainwashed by Microsoft. Much like “car = 4 wheels”, the equation “Microsoft = digital eierlegende Wollmilchsau” seems to prevail in these minds. Once the “digital lizard” is in people’s heads, it is difficult for others to be perceived at all. Then it is seen as negative that, for example, the open source text editing tool does not have the same functions in the same places as its MS Office counterpart. I.e. Microsoft products are declared to be the de facto standard, because they are omnipresent. All alternatives are measured against this “standard”. On the other hand, the functionalities of existing alternatives are based on Microsoft, thus confirming the perceived standard. In this scenario, only one can win; diversity becomes impossible.

One could accept this phenomenon for the time being. In a democracy, it should be possible to have several perspectives and options for action on a topic. It becomes critical when discourse does not take place or when complexity is shortened and simplified. In the above case, the shortening consists in the fact that discourse far too often revolves only around functionalities, interfaces or own habituated processes. However, if one loses oneself in the mere discussion, a blind spot remains that ignores, negates or downplays the fundamental dependency.

This blind spot leads to the fact that, for example, data protection officers in some German states only reject parts of MS365 as not conforming to data protection requirements and do not completely advise against MS products. For public institutions in democracies, however, complete sovereignty is essential to ensure the protection and freedom of citizens.

So, if you notice signs of “brainwashed by Microsoft” in yourself or others, please do not take it lightly. It could be the first indication of an existing dependency. In this case, please stay calm and immediately ask for help from an open source software vendor or service provider. Everything will be fine. Hopefully.

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