The Mom Test

The Quick Version

People who really understand computers (people who create technology companies and design products) are turning to alternatives to Windows because they are worried that the security problems with Windows have gotten out of control.

I just did a little bit of unscientific, but none the less revealing research. I called a bunch of serious geek friends of mine and I asked them what computer system they had setup for their mom. When I say serious geeks, I don't mean computer people with no sense of humour, or your teenage nephew who claims to be good at computers because he has gotten to 10th prestige on Call of Duty, or the chap who has been struggling with Excel at work for 20 years and feels that makes him a computer expert. No, I mean people who create computer companies and design software, people who have a very detailed and current knowledge of what is happening in the world of computers.

Of the ones who had a choice (even some uber geeks have moms who won't listen to them and just buy whatever that nice young man in the shop sells them), not one of them said a Windows machine. The most popular choice was an iPad, some said Mac, the ones who had done this more recently were interested in or had deployed Chromebases (these are quite new and your average mom will keep a computer for about 5 years). Android tablets were mentioned, but everyone doing tablets had stumped up the extra and gotten an iPad because of the better security and easier user interface.

Image courtesy of Veronica Belmont

Image courtesy of Veronica Belmont

When I asked, with a straight face "Why didn't you get her a Windows PC?", swearing words were spoken, my sanity was questioned (and parentage in a couple of cases). Once they had calmed down a bit, I pushed for details and answers went along the lines “iPads just work, she cannot get it infected and when I go over for dinner I don't have to spend the whole time in the back bedroom sorting out the b**!!** computer.”

Like I say, not very scientific and I have simplified their replies a little to avoid an over lengthy and tedious article, but the trend is clear, they don't consider Windows to be a safe platform for their dear old mom. The levels of  Viruses and Junk Software are simply out of control. That’s interesting coming from people who can see which way the wind is blowing. 

Read Windows or Not? to understand the trends that are moving them in this direction.

But this is all nonsense!

The slaying of myths and misunderstandings

There's a staggering amount of misinformation and urban myth doing the rounds on the subject of home computers, often nonsense that is most definitely against your best interests. So let's prepare you for when someone "who knows about computers" comes knocking by covering the popular hogwash in advance.

But my Mom got Windows and I'm a geek!

No doubt somewhere out there will be someone saying "But I'm a serious geek and I just setup a Windows 8 laptop for my dear old mom". To which I say, if you have a big enough audience you will always find someone with a dissenting view, that's just life. The point is, when I ask around, it's clear you are in the minority. The zeitgeist has moved on. You could stay in denial about that, or you could dive in and find out why it has moved. I say dive in, if this movement is not already affecting your world it will soon enough. Sure Windows will be around for a gazillion more years in large companies (see Business PCs), but in the home it's in serious trouble. Just look at the sustained drop in sales of Windows PCs and the rise of the alternatives. There's a message there.

Neil is the only person in the world saying this!

It used to feel like that at first, but ages after I wrote this site I started hearing people in the geeky media saying exactly the same thing. Here's Kevin Rose (one of the best known Venture Capitalist in Silicon Valley) asked that question: 

Notice how he dosen’t hedge his bets with “on one the hand it's good in this way and on other it might be better use something else”, he’s just completely dismissive of the idea of Windows. That's the new normal, people who know what they are talking about would not dream of inflicting this stuff on their families.

Your Comments

Don't be shy, say what you think. The comment system below is there for anyone to ask a question or make a point. Especially don't hold back if you are a normal person just trying to make sense of it all. It's easy to get the opinions of geeks on geeky matters. Much more interesting to hear how this works out for you or what bits need more explanation. No such thing as a silly question, jump in.