Microsoft enters the health care business

Your intrepid blogger draws some politically incorrect parallels between Microsoft's Security Essentials and the push toward universal health care

Is Microsoft's Security Essentials the new "universal health care" for Windows? I ask because every time I hear the company talk about its motivation for delivering MSE -- the millions of unprotected PCs being exploited by all manner of malware -- I can't help but draw comparisons to one or more Obama administration policy speeches.

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1. Universal health care is often described as a "single payer" system. In other words, the government pays for everything and you do your part by absorbing a hefty tax hike (assuming you pay any taxes to begin with -- many of the people who will benefit from universal health care don't).

Likewise, MSE is a single-payer system in that Microsoft is offering the tool for "free," though you and I will undoubtedly pay for it down the road when the true cost is rolled into future licensing fees and upgrades.

2. It offers a basic level of service. Universal health care isn't about delivering the best possible medicine to a majority of people; it's about delivering inadequate medical care to everyone, including the indigent. And, of course, those with the means to do so can always seek out the exceptional service of the old system through private doctors and clinics -- often in foreign countries (I hear India is a popular choice).

Likewise, MSE provides a basic level of protection. By all accounts, it gets the core functions right -- detecting and quarantining threats -- and even throws in some preventative medicine in the form of thrice-daily checks to the signature repository. And if you feel this level of care is inadequate, you can always shell out for one of the myriad third-party tools.

3. It's targeted at the neediest among us. The faces of the universal health care propaganda are typically the poor, often struggling single parents or recent immigrants (legal or otherwise) -- basically, the people clogging up your local emergency room on the weekends. The pitch is that many of these costly (to the taxpayer; see item 1 above) ER visits could have been prevented had they received regular care from a qualified medical professional.

Likewise, MSE is targeted at Windows customers who currently have no protection: users in developing countries who are unwilling or unable to pay for a proper antimalware solution, and those in developed nations who received trial versions of popular third-party tools with their new PCs but then allowed them to lapse after the evaluation period expired. It's no surprise, then, that Microsoft is targeting malware hotbed Brazil -- along with the United States and Israel (the home of MSE development) -- as part of the initial beta release.

So it has finally come to this: Microsoft has taken a page straight out of the liberal Democratic playbook and is now offering its own form of "universal health care" for Windows.

I guess we really can't blame the company. Microsoft has received enough bad press over the years for all those botnet-infected Windows XP and Vista machines serving up warez and fake Viagra adds. It no more wants to see an army of zombie Windows PCs marching across the Internet than President Obama wants to see an angry mob of 40 to 50 million uninsured Americans marching across the Washington mall.

After all, the buck stops where it stops. Whether you're talking about 1 Microsoft Way or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, nobody wants to face the question: "Why didn't you do something about it?"