Who Owns Your Property?

Bear with me briefly, I’ll tie this back into electronic devices shortly.

The question is:

Who owns your property?

Seems simple, right? The possessive pronoun implies all. As expected, you own your property.

You should own your property. However, an amazing number of organizations and people that do not directly own your property think and act contrary. Too many organizations think they have some indirect or direct rights to your property.

Most of us pay property taxes on our home. I own my home but must pay property taxes year after year. Do I then really own my house? Property taxes trace their origin to Kings and Queens who “owned” nearly everything in their kingdom.

Many of us own personal computers. Yet both Microsoft and Apple both act as if they own your computer. Both interrupt your life and productive efforts with never ending software upgrades and in some cases those updates are for all practical purposes forced upon us. Those updates might cost you real time or money. See Jack Ganssle’s Embedded Muse 314 where we learn of a company that incurred thousands of dollars of expenses due to an automatic Windows update on their device… an update delivered via an expensive satellite data connection! During the recent Windows 10 update cycle, many stories circulated around the internet of business presentations embarrassingly interrupted by updates to Windows 10. Really Microsoft, shame on you.

It isn’t just Microsoft. Today I was generating a video to demo a new feature I had completed for a remote customer. In the middle of creating the video my iPhone stopped recording. Why? No storage. Why? Because over 1 GB of storage had been “stolen” in the background by the upcoming iOS 10 update. Thank you, Apple, for interrupting my work flow today.

All of these incidents demonstrate several issues:

  • A lack of empathy for end users.
  • A lack of respect for property rights.
  • A lack of understanding of product use cases.
    • System engineering, requirements gathering, and use case analysis are hard work. Work I enjoy, but many do not. The Windows based device updating over a satellite link is an example of a missed use case.

To conclude I must reminisce. Nearly ten years ago I was in the middle of my Principle Engineering duties at Toshiba. We were adding internet connectivity to anything that didn’t move and internally designing and debating the functionality of our upcoming remote software update feature. I remember mentioning to our project team in Japan that perhaps we should add a “force” option to the software update system. I have never forgotten the response:

We do not own the product after sale. We cannot and will not force an update.

Thank you so much Toshiba for having empathy for the user. Thank you so much for respecting their property rights. And thank you for believing in your principles so much that we never added that “force” option.

The irony, of course, is that ultimately none of us own anything.


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