Ed Bott raises an interesting question about people using PCs that don’t meet the requirements in terms of hardware security for Windows 11 but who own otherwise perfectly fine computers. In 2025, when Microsoft stops patching Windows 10, how many computers will still be out there, in use, connected to the internet, and vulnerable.
“What are the owners of those PCs supposed to do? Microsoft’s bean counters would, of course, like them all to throw those old devices into the nearest landfill and replace them with shiny new hardware, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, most of those customers are likely to do absolutely nothing and carry on with their unsupported operating system, endangering the entire PC ecosystem in the process.”
It’s a legitimate concern, albeit one that has 3 years before it happens, so we’ll see what actually shakes out.
But in the quote above, Ed raises another point that maybe we should be thinking about more. What happens to all the hardware that is no longer supported as technology advances? It ends up in a landfill. That’s not good. That’s not even acceptable.
It raises an interesting question in my mind. How long do you support older hardware in order to just be more environmentally sustainable? Or do you not worry about that as long as you make your money?
It’s not just a question targeted at people who make operating systems either. Yes, I understand that current technology can’t possibly run in any sort of useful way on the first few versions of the iPhone, old PCs, or Macs, even Android and Linux are not immune to this. At some point, you can’t always be backward compatible. But, is the environmental impact part of the decision-making process there? What about all those old devices? Should we expect these same companies that are making them obsolete to also contribute to dealing with them, either through recycling programs or by building tools that give people a way to continue using them in another manner? (I.e. can Apple create an OS that runs on older iPhones to turn them into security cameras or music devices?) Should we really expect them to do that?
This crosses over beyond operating systems as well. When we look at technologies like cryptocurrency, NFTs, and blockchain, we are starting to see some serious backlash because of the enormous amount of energy required just to keep it running. To some, that doesn’t matter because they are busy making a lot of money in those technologies and they also just assume it will get better as people pay attention to it, but does it really get better? It hasn’t so far.
And do we really think the Metaverse is going to somehow magically not require tons of energy use, and constant hardware updates? I’ve seen some people proclaim the metaverse as being an answer to environmental concerns because instead of purchasing things made out of raw material, we’ll be purchasing digital things in our virtual world, but nowhere in those same articles do they mention how much electricity would be required to keep the whole thing running and how they would accomplish that with just renewable energy.
Isn’t it time we started asking the companies providing all this technology that uses a ton of energy, or creates landfill problems with unsupported hardware to be part of the solution before they continue to build this stuff? Instead of coming to the market with promises to be sustainable in the future, should we maybe demand they be fully sustainable right now, or simply not come to the market until they can be?
So yes, the security question is a good one with a new OS, but the landfill problem is just as, if not more, important.