Thursday, 2 April 2009

Microsoft concludes that downloading software is a good thing

In another piece of research Microsoft has concluded that there are significant environmental benefits to providing its software to consumers online. According to Microsoft the study apparently showed that "downloading Office 2007 avoided 8 times the amount of carbon emissions compared to producing and shipping a DVD and its associated packaging through traditional retail distribution channels".

Three points:

- what does "avoided 8 times the amount of carbon emissions" mean? If it generates X amount of carbon by the traditional route how can it avoid 8X by downloading?

- In any case, I think we all already know that 'dematerialisation', which sounds like something from Star Trek but actually refers to doing things digitally rather than physically, saves carbon.

- Thirdly, the same sort of carbon savings are also available (probably) using software online, i.e. software as a service, but Microsoft has been slow to follow that route with its own offerings, since it undermines its traditional business model.

Microsoft's motives seem to be to show its ability to account for carbon emissions over the life cycle of software products. It is commendable, but frankly the expression 'fiddling while Rome burns' springs to mind. I would rather see the company lobbying at the G20 in London today.

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