Don’t plug that in. You don’t know where that gadget has been!

March 14, 2008

Here’s one of those little stories that might mean big consequences for electronics and software companies: today’s AP story featured on CNN’s technology page should be a wake-up call for those in the industry.

The solution? Maybe not ...

┬áIt seems that mostly smaller, cheap electronic devices (such as the digital photo frame featured in the article) are getting infected with viruses – either unintentionally or by hackers – and passing the virus along to unsuspecting consumers’ PCs when they plug in the device. My guess is that we’ll see more news stories about this phenomenon as more gadgets enter the market from China and other places that lack strong quality control.(Image:

The real shame is that these stories will be used to further blame the freewheeling global economy for creating stuff that we as consumers love so much but that the media and certain politicians use to blame when things go wrong, such as the recent problems with toxic Chinese toys. Cheap stuff often comes at a price, even if it isn’t at the cash register.

I agree that companies sending out or knowingly importing shoddy merchandise should be punished. But, in this case rather than continue to blame the manufacturers who can’t possibly control 100% of their testing prior to shipping out their gadgets, the focus should be on the software co’s running the applications. Sorry Microsoft but you guys need to be more creative about controlling this problem: “sealing the borders” by showing pop ups every minute on Vista doesn’t cut it and has created a user experience nightmare that has cost the company sales of its much maligned operating system.

Microsoft and their partners should be getting together and creating a Marshall Plan-like effort to re-tool their code rather than relying on third party sources like Norton and McAfee to do the heavy lifting. Lack of a seamless experience when it comes to keeping out unwanted viruses may just be the tipping point that moves consumers to the on-demand model that everyone has been predicting will happen for the last 5 years.

Let’s stop the blame game and come up with a vision for the future where we can plug in (almost) anything and not worry about unintended consequences.