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Ford's Astoundingly Better Idea

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the thinking-about-corporatism-and-technology dept.

Technology 266

Ford's announcement last week that it was giving away computers, color monitors and Net access to each of its 350,000 world-wide employees and their families didn't make as much news as the cracking of Yahoo and AOL. But it deserves more attention. It was ground-breaking, technological history in the making. If this idea spreads, it could take the Net and the Web to completely new levels, and upend stereotypes (many advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. Computer companies, schools and governments ought to be mortified that they didn't think of it first. Read more.

Here's of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal.

The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. Bill Gates has personally given hundreds of millions to charitable causes, along with some Silicon Valley moguls, but bold and dramatic moves towards technological equality and empowerment are not in the nature of modern corporations.

In corporate America, it's practically illegal to do anything with money except distribute it to stockholders as quickly as possible. This is great for the stockholders, but is short-sighted, especially tough on the social fabric of a country in which politicians campaign for office mostly on vows to do little or nothing.

That's why Ford Motor's announcement last week was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers and IPOs. Ford will offer each of its 350,000 employees worldwide, from factory workers in India to designers in Michigan, a high-speed desktop computer, a color printer and unlimited Internet access for just $5 a month. This announcement was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers, IPOs and stock prices.

Company founder Henry Ford came from a different business era, a time when the individuals running companies could, and sometimes even did, make moral as well as financial decisions about the way their companies worked.

Although by all accounts, Ford was neither an admirable individual nor a likeable boss, his vision of technology had enormous impact on the world. He brought mobility to countless millions who never had it. He understood that workers who were treated well did better work than workers who weren't. He's the reason the automobile quickly became a universal work and recreational option for people of many income levels.

Presented with a number of ideas about how to sell automobiles, Ford became obsessed with the idea of the cheap car, a well-made technological product that almost everyone had a shot at buying. For better or worse, he changed the world, and made a ton of money in the process.

Modern corporations aren't run by individuals but by amalgams of lawyers, directors, stockholders, analysts. Companies aren't interested in bold visions, which is why Ford's computer initiative sent shock waves through the business world. Nobody could remember a move like it.

It's ironic that few computer companies are as visionary. Although several are scrambling to market cheap PC's, the industry for years has been marked by high costs, poor quality, confusing products and service, and endemic arrogance. The industry has always focused on hardware and software; technology's users and their needs are rarely in the forefront of design. Apple computers stunned the industry simply by making computers that were pleasant to look at.

Computing has spread throughout the U.S. and much of the world despite the people who sell and design computers, not because of them. If Ford's initiative spreads - it should - the Net would rise to a completely different level almost overnight. Technology would mean something radically different to many millions of people cut off from it now.

It was ironic how short-lived the publicity was over this astounding business move - especially when you compare the coverage of the cracking of Yahoo. Ford's move didn't get a fraction of the attention and discussion it deserved. It may - almost surely will - turn out to be a much-remembered turning point in the way corporations view technology and their own inter-actions with employees.

The computer give-away harks back to Henry Ford's genius. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Apple ought to be particularly mortified that they didn't think of it first. So should schools, universities and governments.

Ford once enraged other fat cats when he doubled the wage for assembly-line workers to $5 per eight-hour day in 1913. The move reduced training costs at a time when laborers were so hard to find in Detroit that only one in 10 Ford employees stayed for more than a few months, a scenario familiar to contemporary tech workers and companies.

Now his company's trying something even more radical. Ford's new Web sites will link employees all over the world, and give the company new ways of communicating with its staff. It will affect the way the company does business and the personal lives of the people who work for it.

Ford says it will offer Internet home pages in 14 languages, and provide home page links to Ford Web sites, with UUNet as the ISP.

Ford thus not only makes its employees happy, but gives them a strong incentive to stay in their jobs. It gives employees' children the tools they need to compete in the 21st Century workforce. It helps develop a technologically-skilled labor pool that can communicate internally, and promotes interactivity (not readily available in most corporations) and promotes computer literacy abroad. As computing spreads overseas, it could also have broad social, cultural and political consequences. The Internet promotes freedom, education, democracy and prosperity.

If other American companies adopted Ford's model, the technological gap looming between the middle-class and underclass would begin to close. The United States workforce would become the most technologically sophisticated in the world. The high-tech workforce would expand dramatically, along with the educational, cultural, social and economic benefits of computing still unavailable to more than half the American population.

New kinds of programmers and computer users would surge online, perhaps bringing new ideas and approaches to programming, software and the nature of the Net and Web.

Ford's move could upend a few of the conventional stereotypes (many enthusiastically advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. It hasn't yet, of course.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore talked incessantly about building bridges to the future in the last election, but their administration has done relatively little to wire up the country. It could be argued that this is a role for government, but Ford has challenged that notion. If corporations grasp the benefits for themselves and their employees, and take it upon themselves to provide their workers with computers and Internet access - increasingly, a necessity, not a privilege - they can begin rewriting their own sorry history.

Ford really did have a better idea this time. Perhaps even ground-breaking, if it catches on.

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Trollin for Scooby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288320)


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Scottish Scooby site [rit.edu]
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Scoobyland links [chebucto.ns.ca]

First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288321)

Yeah baby, Yeah!!!

...but be careful how you use it! (3)

rizzo (21697) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288322)

The only problem with this is then Ford thugs will descend upon you and have a right (based on the ruling in the recent Northwest Airlines incident) to take THEIR computer back and go through it to see what you've been doing.

Let's not forget Henry Ford himself was famous for blatantly having thugs beat senseless employees who wanted to unionize. What do you think they'll want to do if you're emailing to incite sickouts?

schools dont give away computers? (2)

vyesue (76216) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288323)

what do you mean, schools should have thought about this a long time ago? there arent colleges giing out laptops at very low prices?

Re:First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288324)

No, baby, NO!!!

It's still greedy corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288325)

I think Ford is doing the right thing. But they have an alterior motive - squeeze more productivity out of workers by having them work from home.

It's also a cheap computer that's probably cheaper than paying them a cash bonus.

Privacy on the company provided computers? (2)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288326)

On the computers provided for personal use by the company, will they require the employee's home be subject to random search?

Man Katz... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288327)

you suck. Nuff said.

Re:...but be careful how you use it! (1)

kwsNI (133721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288328)

What if you encrypt the data on it? This isn't the UK, they can't force you to give them the decryption key.

kwsNI

Good things don't get press (2)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288329)

It was ironic how short-lived the publicity was over this astounding business move - especially when you compare the coverage of the cracking of Yahoo.

This really is too bad. There have been a lot of different business and charitable grass roots efforts to get a particular segment wired, etc. Most don't receive any press at all unless there is a bill in front of congress and some politician is pressing the flesh. Thiswas a real opportunity to show off the benefit of having a corporation commit to helping it's staff ramp up and become more technical. Way to go Ford! Hopefully when all the press from the recent DoS attacks fades away someone like 60 minutes will do a rah rah on the whole effort.

It's sad but because this wasn't a "sexy" story involiving violence, bad guys, scandle etc., the press will just do a quick fly by to do diligence and say we covered it and then move on to the next Lewinski type story.

Delta & Ford (1)

Foxhound (122041) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288330)

agreed completely. This was far more important for the community than the denial of service attacks. Delta nd Ford both took a very bold and major step. HP supplies the machines for Ford of course. I blv the internet access for the Ford machines will still need to be purchased, at a minimal amount of $5 a month. And Ford is not thrusting the machines down its employees gullet either. The employees can choose not to take the machines. ..and I guess they can choose not to take the Internet access either. For Delta, I blv the cost is a little higher - a $12 per month and the machines do not have all the paraphenalia as the machines given out by Ford do...

Playing paranoid's advocate for a moment. (1)

Paul Neubauer (86753) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288331)

Ok, let's assume Ford is really doing the Right Thing and for the Right Reasons.

Suppose Northwest airlines had done this a while back. Would they have an easier time claiming they were really searching *their* own computers for whatever they wanted to troll for?
--

argh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288332)

Can't this clown make his point in less than a dozen screenfuls of meaningless dribble?

My AIBO is a better author. jeez.

Stop wasting precious bits on this crap.

Clarkson U, Hartwick College (2)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288333)

Clarkson was the first in the nation ('85?) to give a computer to students as part of their tuition. Heck, I got a 286 SBC and passive backplane - little did I know that I'd be getting back into that technology 10 years later (a bit more advanced too).

Hartwick gave its students laptops starting in..'93? Maybe 92. My brother went there and got a 386 laptop. IIRC, this was also part of the tuition.

To say that schools aren't doing this is really silly, given that it's been going on for 15 years!

use what little you have... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288334)

Ok, you mindless, moronic slashdot readers: if you don't want to read what Katz has written, then DON'T READ IT. Use what few firing neurons you have and scroll down to the next mindless Linux-worshipping article you can find, and you'll be right at home...

Go ahead and "rate" my post, slashdot censors, I don't care. You're just as bad as the simpletons that frequent this waste of bandwidth.

Cracking and the commodity internet (1)

Phaid (938) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288335)

GAH! Yahoo and AOL weren't cracked, they were DOSed. And that is not a splitting-hairs distinction either.

Media coverage of the "rash of internet vandalism" has been idiotic in the extreme, and by issuing silly characterizations of these events you're joining the crowd. I know it's a single word, but since you're trying to fit in you should know that precise usage is required. Buzzword dropping is for ZDNet and Wired.

As far as the Ford thing, yes, wow, golly, use of the internet is becoming just as ubiquitous as the television and the telephone. And that's the one place where the two stories meet in the middle -- on the one hand, a major corporation supplying internet access to its employers as it would any other commodity benefit, and on the other hand the mass media pushing the DOS story to the top of the headlines. Yet more proof that the internet is no longer a curiosity, but a part of our basic infrastructure.

We've come a long way from the days when a SLIP connection to a university was unheard of and the Morris Worm was a sidebar on Page 8 of the paper...

Katz you are out of the world again (2)

arivanov (12034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288336)

Katz you are wrong:

The main and primary outcome from this will not be an educated middle/lower class. Computers not put to actual productive use do not educate. Just the opposite.

The immediate and primary outcome will be the fact that the employer will have all the rights necessary to search and desist when it comes to all employee data, including personal. See the NW airlines case today on slashdot.

And offtopic to commander Taco. GET THE BLOODY JAVA BANNER OUT . I do understand that you worry about user security but increasing the security on most slashdot user machines by making sure that they have turned tha jabba off is deinitely not my idea of advertising.

Inviting your boss into your home (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288337)

There's nothing "ground-breaking" at all about offering computers to your employees. It's no different than giving your employee voice mail or a pager. All Ford has done is effectively extended its employees' workplace into their homes. Ford will figure out a way to make their employees productive at home as well as at work, and they will know exactly who in their organization is equipped to work out of the house. This program should be setting alarm bells off, instead of being applauded as a breakthrough employee benefit.

I don't like John Katz (1)

Ramses0 (63476) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288338)

John Katz, you are a master of stating the obvious in a way that manages to offend people.

Yes, it is wonderful that Ford is giving away computers to it's employees. But that doesn't require some fruity "industry analyst" who styles himself as the next John Dvorak to tell me that it's wonderful.

I'm sure you think your opinions are -so important- that they must be shared, that it's your duty to share them. I'm also sure you think that a good percentage of the population just wouldn't be able to cope with all the exciting developments such as this without you holding their hand and telling them what you think.

Your hellmouth stories were great, not because of your writing, but because of the writings of others. Almost everthing else you've written should be marked (-1 redundant), in my opinion.

--Robert

the Gov. has been doing this for ages (1)

NovaX (37364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288339)

Well, Ford's giving a computer out is nice I'm sure, and expected from the sub-$1000 boom, but I know the government Labs, or at least LLNL, has been loaning out computers/equipment for home use for ages. My father, in the 80s to early 90s, used to just loan out all of our computers (except my brothers TRS80/Tandy1000) from the lab, which included a full 287 and 486DX-50.

Back in about '93 he tried to return some of the parts, which they then accused him of stealing. Of course, it was simply that they depreciated it to zero, deleted the records, etc. So now.. he doesn't take out hardware, but does have 3 PCs for work in his office. :-)

And for the 'net.. you simply called them. A machine would pick up, take your ID, call back from the records, take a passcode, and log you ont a VAX/VMS system. From there, rlogin to your own machine (an HP Unix workstation), and off you go. Yeah, secure, and just like now, your employer would watch everything you do. So, no difference except they provided the firewall, and paid the telephone charges. Oh... the days of the 300 baud modem. :-)

Personal Space (3)

Effugas (2378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288340)

Somebody has to ask the question:

How much of me does my employer own?

Disney makes its animators sign statements that the company owns everything--every sketch, every thought, every image--on or off duty, at home, on vacation...

It's arguable that Disney contractually owns the dreams of its animators.

I'm excited to hear that Ford is creating a "minimum level of computing" for its employees, taking advantages of the tremendous network effects of having a totally wired workforce. They will benefit.

But will there be an acceptable barrier between work related and non work related reporting of computer resources? Will people unintentionally donate the fruits of their free time--hammered out on company resources--to their employers? More importantly, will we finally see a standard of privacy explictly formed for non-realtime(logged by protocol necessity, like email or ICQ) yet highly informal conversation? Or will all mutterings and water cooler talk end up the domain of the corporate censor?

I've *had* a coworker lose her job over a minorly snide comment on a discussion forum. When the lines of communication are owned by the corporation, are the dangers and rights violations posited by the Founding Fathers merely executed by the Corporate rather than the Governmental? Or is Ford explicitly delineating what it can and cannot monitor?

Yours Truly,

Dan Kaminsky
DoxPara Research
http://www.doxpara.com

A fraction of his wealth... (2)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288341)

So with Gate's worth around $100B, I guess it seems quite reasonable to you that he should give away $6B (" a fraction of his wealth") to buy computers for all the kids who don't have them. How generous of you.

So what are *YOU* worth Katz? Middle age, reasonably successful... I'd guess you're worth at least $250K, probablt more... So 6/100 of your wealth would be a measly $15,000. How much do you give to charity, I wonder....

Last time I read anything about Gates, his charitable contributions were in the Billions, not 100's of Millions. He seems to prefer humanitarian causes than getting America wired. More power to him. He's still runs a company that produces shit, but at least give him some credit where due.

Swedish goverment has been there, done that. (2)

Caine (784) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288342)

The swedish goverment gave extreme tax reductions to all companies (private and the states) who sold computers to their employees. The computers were extremly cheap, good ones with good backup and warrants. Almost all swedish companies jumped on the bandwagon, pressing the computersales in sweden at a new all high. This singlehandedly spread computers into a lot of homes, that didn't have one before. So Ford was in no way revolutionary with this.

What about privacy? Did I miss that in your story (1)

GMontag (42283) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288343)

If I missed the elimination of privacy element in what Jon wrote, I apologize, but my rants will continue until morale improves.

Already, we have a case where Northwest Airlines now has court decried permission to search the private computers of it's employees in their own homes. They are not yet exercising that power, but they do have it. If that is not yet enough of an outrage, now we have this...

Ford, instead of supplying home computers free (like every other firm with that need does), is offering computers AND internet connection at a discount. If Ford was giving the employees equipment and bandwidth they would have an obvious right to monitor everything. Under this scheme, Ford will not need to get a court order to snoop on the employees that thake up the offer, they will just be able to do it through the normal and accepted (though widly stretched, if they wish) powers of an ISP on traffic monitoring. All under the guise of being "nice" through a "great deal". All the while the employees pay for the potential of privacy invasion.

I really don't give a whit about what they "say" they will do, they will have the ability to monitor everything their employees do.

Wow, I just noticed that I am the hysterical one in this discussion, it seems so alien. With good reason! Friends don't let friends drive Fords.

MS Should include C++ compiler with Windows 98/NT (1)

include (250035) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288344)

MS should include the pleb version of Visual C++ with every copy of their O/S's they sell.
That way MS would win friends and influence ppl, and there would be many more WinAPI programmers.

We'd have winners all round! Woohoo!

Good news :) (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288345)

This is a commendable move by Ford -- particularly their inclusion of non-US workers. One can only imagine the further possibilities if Ford embraced Open Source as well...

I'm not sure that this is entirely original, though. I seem to recall from History class that the Soviet Union gave away free television sets. Hell of a difference, though, from giving away propaganda devices to giving away the most possibly empowering machines known to man!

Clarkson University was first in '83 (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288346)

Clarkson College (now University) was the first college to give computers to all its students. The first year to have computers was the 1983 incoming freshman class. They got Zenith Z-100 computers with a 5 Mhz processor, 192K of memory, a 320K floppy, and 96K of 3bpp video memory.
-russ

Well actually.. (2)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288347)

<i>In corporate America, it's practically illegal to do anything with money except distribute it to stockholders as quickly as possible. </I>

Which is a damn good thing really. When I invest in a company I want a return on my money, not it going to whatever touchy feely charity some higher up in the company thinks it should go to. If I want to give money to charity I am more than capable of deciding which ones to give it to, I don't need a company to make a donation by proxy for me.

I don't really object to this Ford thing though becuase as I understand it, this was part of the UAW's renegotion of their contract with Ford, so really its a cost of compensation....

New breed of programmers? (1)

PsychoSpunk (11534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288348)

Jon's statement here is reaching:

<i>If other American companies adopted Ford's model, the technological gap looming between the middle-class and underclass would begin to close. The United States workforce would become the most technologically sophisticated in the world. The high-tech workforce would expand dramatically, along with the educational, cultural, social and economic benefits of computing still unavailable to more than half the American population.

New kinds of programmers and computer users would surge online, perhaps bringing new ideas and approaches to programming, software and the nature of the Net and Web.</i>

Examining it further will truly show that he failed to consider a few things. A factory worker or any other worker who receives a shiny new PC from his corporation is not going to magically transform into a superflying, hotshot programming ace. This move is not going to spur bouts of creativity, other than that of the innovative ways that MSMoney lets you manage your checkbook.

However, Jon's statement also holds truth. For many of us who ended up in IT/Dev positions, it's because we had access to computers as children. But back then it was different. MS BSOD didn't pop up every time we tried to push harder on the computer, and many of us probably ignored the limits that were "imposed". But windows, the glut of computer games, and the lack of tools to muck with the interior stuff changed that. It is a sad state of affairs when the kids today don't have even an introductory programming language like BASIC on their home PCs because I believe learning the logic required for good programming helps skills all around.

Yes and no, the move by Ford was good. But the past errors (like removing BASIC programming tools) won't help make up for crafty programmers anytime in the near future.

*Please* Get an Editor (2)

Col. Panic (90528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288349)

Someone suggested this a short while ago and I believe they had a really good idea. Please, Mr. Katz - at least re-read your articles before posting. You claim to be a writer for a living:

Ford's announcement last week that it was giving away computers, color monitors and Net access to each of its 350,000 world-wide employees and their families didn't make as much news as the cracking of Yahoo and AOL. But it deserves more attention. [fragment] It was ground-breaking, technological history in the making. If this idea spreads, it could take the Net and the Web to completely new levels, and upend stereotypes (many advanced by yours truly) about greedy corporatism. Computer companies, schools and governments ought to be mortified that they didn't think of it first. Read more. Here's [one?] of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid [children without wires?] in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal. The industry of which Gates has been the titular head of [redundant] for years has historically exhibited scant generosity, empathy, or social vision, although recently having discovered the need for better public relations, has begun making some gestures towards charity. [run-on] Bill Gates has personally given hundreds of millions to charitable causes, along with some Silicon Valley moguls, but bold and dramatic moves towards technological equality and empowerment are not in the nature of modern corporations.

I can't take anymore.

Much ado about nothing. (1)

paul.dunne (5922) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288350)

> That's why Ford Motor's announcement announcement last week was
> potentially the most significant technology news in years,

Yes, that's what he said. Stop and think for a second, people. Now: yes, you're right, this is absurd.

How many years, Jon? 5? 10? More important than, say, news about the first Linux kernel? The first ISP in the UK (or wherever)? The list of technology news which is more significant than this squib could be extended almost indefinitely -- but fuck that; if you want an education, go back to college (or try reading /. -- better than nothing).

Companies setting up home offices for their employees is NOT fucking news, which you'd know if you lived on Planet Earth (how are things on Zorg these days, by the way?) The only unique thing about this is the scale, which is interesting enough to warrant a mention in a "Quickie" posting, nothing more.

Cracking? (1)

generic (14144) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288351)

I would not call DDoS cracking.

We'd better get IPv6 instated! (1)

mrBoB (63135) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288352)

(read with sarcastic tone)
Wow, these companies are soooo nice. I'm sure they're only giving out top-'o-the line stuff, a nice PIII-500mhz w/ 21" monitor, 25 gig of disk space and at least 128 meg of ram! Man, i should go work for Ford, or Northwest Airlines! Yep, I think 25 Gig of disk space will be a lot of room to store all those emails regarding sick-outs and stuff. What a nice company Ford is...

Re:...but be careful how you use it! (1)

Quarters (18322) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288353)

File encryption and high security just aren't on the minds of the masses, yet. I'm sure many of the people that take part in Ford's program will be overwhelmed with functionality that many of us consider to be extremely basic. High level concepts like public key encryption, firewalling, and enabling/disabling cookies will not be things they easily understand.

Come on Jon.. think about it.. (1)

Rodney L Caston (143815) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288354)

Jon, the odds some high ranking Ford executive's kid is into computers and so they did this deal just so the higher ups can get some free computers for their family, in exchange for the company buying lots of them for the workers.

Proofreading? :-) (1)

pingflood (105369) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288355)

That's why Ford Motor's announcement announcement last week was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers and IPOs. Ford will offer each of its 350,000 employees worldwide, from factory workers in India to designers in Michigan, a high-speed desktop computer, a color printer and unlimited Internet access for just $5 a month. This announcement was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers, IPOs and stock prices.

C'mon, doesn't anyone actually READ this before it gets posted?

-pf

But can they browse Honda.com and Chevrolet.com? (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288356)

That's nice of Ford, are they going to put controls on the browsers to keep them from looking at competitors web pages?

George

Re:Katz you are out of the world again (2)

dennisp (66527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288357)

"Computers not put to actual productive use do not educate"

I'm guessing an implication to an assumption that ford employees will not actively seek out information. I think this is a stupid generalization.

Also, if you read further detail into his article, you would see that Ford is working to setup collaboration systems that would further allow for dissemination of information. As well, speaking of the world wide internet - there are plenty of users *not* putting it to good use. There are, however, plenty of users who *are* putting it to good use.

Would you state your assumption regarding internet users world wide as well? Or is this just a prejudice regarding Ford employee's or lower/middle class workers?

Re:use what little you have... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288358)

Funny, but you seem to have come to this site. Why do you call yourself names?

Re:the Gov. has been doing this for ages (1)

gumbo (88087) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288359)

  • Well, Ford's giving a computer out is nice I'm sure, and expected from the sub-$1000 boom, but I know the government Labs, or at least LLNL, has been loaning out computers/equipment for home use for ages.

Yup. We (a government agency) lend people computers to take home as well. Generally ones that are a bit too slow to run Windows 95 comfortably in the office (e.g., Pentium 120s) or slightly faster machines that are too proprietary to support easily.

In fact, I don't actually own any computers myself. My home machine is one that I borrowed from the government.

A tissue of unsupported lies (3)

crush (19364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288360)

Katz argues at least two unsupported and illogical things:
  • The gap between the middle and lower-classes will close:
    Just because Ford hands out computers to its employees? The people employed by Ford are already the "middle-class" - the real poor in this country are a lot worse off than those "lucky" enough to work for Ford
  • This is not the greedy corporatism that Katz has fearlessly railed against:
    Yet in the same article he says that Ford realized that a happy worker is a productive worker and that workers get pay raises when there's a labour shortage...hmm, let's connect the dots for him - at the moment there's a shortage of labour ( in the US at least) and this is a cheap way to make workers happy and get them to rely on the company for their personal communication more. Nope, definitely not greedy corporatism there.

Re:What about privacy? Did I miss that in your sto (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288361)

There was no privacy element in what Jon wrote, but I don't see that as a big problem.

Yes, there are potential privacy problems here, at least in the US. (the privacy ruling with NW has no bearing on Ford's computers in other countries, so far as I know) There are other issues as well, such as Ford's choice of OS, ISP, manufacturer. I think that Jon would agree, though, that these things are minor, if it boils down to "Having a computer" vs. "Not having a computer".

Privacy issues will at one point have to be resolved, yes. As will things such as use of the machines by family members (I, for instance, am not permitted to drive my father's company car), the use of the computers to access pr0n or other politically sensitive content, etc. etc.

But pessimism now might turn out to be a very bad thing, if focus on these issues prevents other companies from doing the same as Ford.

here we go again... (1)

wuukiee (135191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288362)

Anyone else feel like we really need to hold onto our hats now? Ford's initiative, if it catches on (and it alreayd appears to be making an impression, since Delta's picked up a similar plan almost immediately) this could be the step we need to set us squarely in the "information age"

This initiative will do several things:
1)it will provide technology to many people who might otherwise not have access to it. in doing so, it has the potential to increase wide-spread levels of education. there are a lot of bright young children out there who could make a lot of themselves if they had better education. even if they cannot afford a good "traditional" eduucation, having access to the internet provieds them with infinite knowldegde *if they desire to partake of it*. Those that are motivated to learn, are now given the chance.
2)This has the potential to cause a huge boom in the technology field in the next few years. Again, by giving computers to people who otherwise might not have them, it brings more people *into* computer-related areas. The best and brightest students who before never had teh *chance* to become interested in technology have teh opertunity, adn if they are truly interested they will take advantage of what they've got. This could bring a whole new collection of people into computing areas, enriching it greatly. not only will it bring more diversity (perhaps?) into the field, but it will be attracting potentially large quantities of intellegent, interested people. Think of how thish could effect teh tech industry...

i'd be tempted to say that, if initiatives like this catch on, this could completely revolutionize society. think about it... the implications are stunning...

Re:schools dont give away computers? (1)

rfrank_ (139108) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288363)

I'd love to know what school you are going to, my college sell computers and computers parts, but the prices are horrible. Not to meantion the fact that a 10 base T connection here costs $250 for the year(100 base T is $500), about $32 a month... a little costly for a college student.

Computers as part of benefits packages (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288364)

Computer-related benefits have been around in the high-tech world for a while. When I worked at Trusted Information Systems [tis.com] from 1993 to 1996, they had a matching-funds program for computer purchases, and employees could get dial-up shell access to e-mail, USENET, and ftp. When Digex [digex.com] made me a job offer a few years back, one of their benefits was an ISDN connection (this was pre-DSL) to my house.

So this isn't quite as new or radical as Katz makes it out to be.

Re:A fraction of his wealth... (1)

conami (98836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288365)

Umm, excuse me but Mr. Katz was simply quoting a statistic:
"Here's of the most telling statistics ever offered about Microsoft: In l996, a New York City telecommunications consulting firm concluded that Bill Gates could buy a computer for every unwired kid in America for roughly $6 billion, a fraction of his total wealth. In fact, said the study on the uneven distribution of technology in American education, if Gates invested the interest on his wealth for a couple of years, he could buy those computers without even dipping into his principal.",

if you had taken the time to actually read (you illiterate little sh%t) what was said here you might have recognized this.....

Ford from a "different business era" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288366)

Company founder Henry Ford came from a different business era, a time when the individuals running companies could, and sometimes even did, make moral as well as financial decisions about the way their companies worked.

Ford's contribution to the Nazi effort [thenation.com]

Free isn't always GOOD! (1)

E_Let (95623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288367)

Didn't we just read something like this...

I'll bet Ford reserves the right to seize the free computers of it's employees if the higher powers suspect employees of sabotage.

Just because something is free, doesn't mean it's better. Take free web hosting, for example. If you sign yourself up, you are at the mercy of your host. You can't post anything they deem objectionable (although they are quite lienent! [go.to] and they inseminate your pretty site with pop up windows and ad frames.

So I guess when Ford hires you they hand you a new PC. Great! But you, the /. reader, knows that they'll wind up confiscating it in the long run to read your files on bringing down robotic car builders. If you decline the PC, you'll probably be shunned.


----
(Your mother's sig here)

Re:...but be careful how you use it! (2)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288368)

Oh, I forgot that Henry Ford was still running the place. Yeah, they're going to have thugs come beat you up -- don't be an ass. Hey, maybe Ford would try something like that (taking the computers, not beating people up), but if they do then so be it. Some company is going to try it at some point, so we might as well set a precedent for it one way or the other, right?

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Weekly Hypokatzcracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288369)

Hmm.
A big company gives away computers.
Katz: Yeah, company!
What happened to Katz, fearless crusader against globalization?
Ford is one of the biggest globalized, untouchable companies in the world.
What happened to Katz the privacy hysteric?
Companies supplying computers to employees is the worst thing to happen to employee privacy ever.

Fords motives not so altruistic... (1)

q2k (67077) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288370)

The union wanted it - and in the big picture, its a relatively cheap benefit. People PC normally charges $25 a month - you've got to figure Ford negotiated that down quite a bit. So for say, $18 a month per person (tax deductable for ford), they buy union goodwill, a boatload of good press, and the undying devotion of Jon Katz, who I'm sure will be rushing out to buy a Ford vehicle now :)

Also- remember that most major benefits (paid for by somebody else) that are now increasingly viewed as rights (ie. health care, retirement benefits, and now computers) started as union negotiated benefits. Its only a matter of time before somebody is pushing a bill through congress mandating that all employers buy computers for their employees.

Re:Clarkson U, Hartwick College (2)

irix (22687) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288371)

My sister, going to Acadia University in NS, Canada, had a PC as part of their tuition too.

It was unpopular with some students tho, since tutition was considerably higher with the PC in there.

There is a difference between "part of tution" and "free". :)

Re:schools dont give away computers? (1)

Hasues (63342) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288372)

No, its essentially the trend that people shouldn't have to buy stuff, but rather have the hard working people who create businesses and jobs give it away to them. While I applaud Ford's actions, I think Katz is a socialist.

Big Whoop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288373)

Ok, Ford descides to give all of its employees a computer and internet access. How is this a new inovative idea? If you work for an airline company you can get free flights to anypart of the world. If you're a CEO of a Fortune 500 company you get access to the executive brothel. These things are called Perks and that's all it is. Ford now has a new tool to use in recruting new employees while keeping an eye on the current ones. To say this a major turning point in everyday life is nothing but pure bull.

It's common in Denmark (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288374)

Many companies (especially banks) have given free PC's to all their employees the last couple of years. The idea is

1) To give them something they don't have to pay tax off.
2) A vague hope that they will be better at using computers (which is why the Danish politicians doesn't tax these gifts, liuke they tax everything else).

I don't think there are anything signficant about it, like the US (and unlike the rest of EU) Denmark has had a booming economy and low unemployment the last few years. In such a situation, companies will do their best to make themselves an attractive place to work. Tax-free gifts are one way, especially since the strong unions prevents raising the pay.

Too bad Gates didn't put out... (1)

greendot (104457) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288375)

I think if slippy Bill did give out a free PC to every unwired kid in America, the investment would fuel back up to MS in big bucks. Increase the user base and eventually they are going to want to buy software from somebody. Sure, they may get the next version of Windows.. or Office. Or if they are kids, then the'll get some educational software, which was probably developed on MS tools.

And, if it's done as a "charity", I'm sure there are huge tax breaks.

Even at the expense of Gates getting richer, I would like to see unwired kids getting hooked up. It helps.. helps a lot, but that's another topic all together.

Re:Good things don't get press (2)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288376)

You know what that reminds me of? Paul Newman. Seriously, here is an actor who uses his fame to sell popcorn and salad dressing, and he donates all of the profits to charity. That's a really good idea, I think. But the best part is that he doesn't make a big stink about it. There's just a little, unobtrusive note on the back of his products explaining the situation. Very commendable.

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Re:Cracking? (1)

rfrank_ (139108) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288377)

It's better than calling it "hacking" as the mainsteam press has been, although personally I call it stupid.

Katz is one reason I don't give to charity (1)

rlglende (70123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288378)


Organized charities are filled with socialists, who work to undermine the social and economic structure within which I make my living.

Should I ever get rich, I will never give a cent to any foundation, charity, university, ...

I do charity on a personal basis. More work, but at least the mistakes are mine.

Oh, yes. Almost forgot the obligatory "Katz is an idiot" statemet.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288379)

A few things to say: Katz says that billg can donate $6 billion without even dipping into his net worth. Six billion is nearly 10% of his wealth today, and was even a more significant percentage in 1996, when that statistic was made. While he could easily afford it, Katz severely exaggerates how much he could afford it. Second, Katz lauds Ford for doing a big thing for each and every one of his workers. Would he be saying the same if they took the exact same $$$ and made it a one time bonus in cash? Third, Katz believes that corps have obligations in their own right to be charitable. Personally, I don't think that this should be the case - corporations have shareholders, and if anyone has that obligation, it should be the shareholders. It seems quite silly to view a corp to have this burden. There are exceptions, but people generally agree that it is good for haves to be charitable to havenots. If a company makes a charitable donation, that is money that would otherwise have gone to shareholders. That shareholder could be a factory worker that doesn't make much, or it could be a very rich person awash in riches. My point is that the rich person, not the collective corp, should be the one doing the giving. Some might say that often these rich people do not give charitably. I won't deny that. But it is these individuals that Katz should be railing against. But then again, "Corporatism" is a more evil sounding word than "Individualism"

What about Northwest Airlines?? (1)

totally (147662) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288380)

I read today (I'm looking for it again but I can't find it), that Northwest airlines were going through employees computers (through court action) to find out whether they took part in a planned "sick out" back in december. Pretty scary stuff. I do not know whether Northwest has a similar computer program but it would seem to be even easier for company's to appropriate data on a machine that was "given" to an employee.

Solidarity Forever! (1)

Pstrobus (149491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288381)

One of the things we are missing in this whole discussion is that this giveaway was a result of a collective bargaining agreement between Ford and the UAW. For those of us who no longer remember the phrase "collective bargaining" it means Union Negotiation.

I do not know who came up with the idea first, Ford or the UAW, but the fact that they were in contract negotiations at all is because there is a union at Ford. Also, as happens when a union negotiates a strong contract, non-union employees get the benefits as well. A lot of people think unions are on their way out, but this indicates that they may still have a place in the modern workforce.

"this post paid for with union dollars"

Re:Swedish goverment has been there, done that. (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288382)

Ford may not have been revolutionary with their idea, but it seems revolutionary in America (for an MNC to offer pcs to employees world-wide!). In any case, you imply it was a Good Thing for Sweden, so hopefully it'll be a good thing all around.

I didn't realize Ford had a factory in India, but if they do, then it's that many more net users in India! You may not realize it, but that nation churns out programmers, not users. It's a weird situation they have down there, and hopefully this'll help improve it.
--
Peace,
Lord Omlette
AOL IM: jeanlucpikachu

Re:It's still greedy corporatism (1)

Stalky (31519) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288383)

"But they have an alterior motive - squeeze more productivity out of workers by having them work from home."
Yeah, they need something to control that assembly line they just put in the bedroom.
I seem to recall that this was part of a collective bargaining agreement, rather than something Ford did out of the goodness of their hearts. Also, isn't Jon playing up Henry's virtues a bit much, just to try to make the article flow? Wasn't Ford strongly anti-semitic?

Re:Weekly Hypokatzcracy (1)

crush (19364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288384)

What happened to Katz, fearless crusader against globalization?

Well, it's like this see - Mr.Katz isn't very smart and he hasn't followed any of the discussions in the Free Software community about free(beer) vs. Free (speech), so when something like this rolls around he's easily confused. Basically, like a lot of whiners against globalism his beef is that he isn't getting any - if he were a little richer then he would re-adjust his psyche and arguments to the view that the world was a good place. I hereby swear NEVER to post about or read Katz articles again, that's the only way we'll get rid of him from /. I was mistaken in the past about letting him stay here - I apologize, I cringe.

Re:Personal Space (2)

Col. Panic (90528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288385)

Will people unintentionally donate the fruits of their free time--hammered out on company resources--to their employers?

Very likely, yes. If I am a Ford employee and my coworkers/friends and I all receive home PC's, we are very likely to start discussing how we are using the PC's at home. We will probably send email and chat at least some of the time. We will probably end up discussing work-related issues since it is a common bond between us. Ford benefits -- probably. If the rumor mill grows as a result, and that also seems likely, Ford may find its internal politics on the rise. However, I expect that most people will act with some decorum and will accomplish more than they hinder with their new-found connectivity.

will we finally see a standard of privacy explictly formed for non-realtime(logged by protocol necessity, like email or ICQ) yet highly informal conversation?

I doubt that any corporation is going to say "well, you said this on your own time, so we don't mind you trashing the CEO." If the forum involves other employees of Ford, or the corporation is mentioned in a public statement, the author will be held accountable.

I've *had* a coworker lose her job over a minorly snide comment on a discussion forum.

This is really unfortunate, but it is not impossible to forsee. As always - when you are on the record, watch what you say.

Re:Inviting your boss into your home (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288386)

While i don't think it's groundbreaking, I do think it's a good idea. I know when my last company gave me a pager I sure gave the number out faster to my friends and family than to the co-workers who needed it. Same with the computers. I'm sure it'll get more use with the kids writing papers or surfing to sites they shouldn't than from the adults who are supposed to be using it. Besides, how much work at home can you do when your job is to install bucket seats in cars?

Re:schools dont give away computers? (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288387)

No, it's because Ford has realized that our current economic boom can be traced to one place...all the digital slaves that now do the work of millions. By making people more computer literate in general it will help the company in a wide variety of ways; lower training/support costs, new ideas, higher morale, free advertising....

Re:Katz you are out of the world again (2)

arivanov (12034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288388)

Would you state your assumption regarding internet users world wide as well? Or is this just a prejudice regarding Ford employee's or lower/middle class workers?

I think I expressed myslef properly. Do not search whatever is not there.

To repeat: I do not believe in computers not put to use even if the use is simply a reading and searching machine to have any educational value. Clicking mindlessly on solitare does not educate. Playing Duke nuke'm does not educate either. Used in this fashion computers are same as TV - opium for the masses. A distractive factor so the people do not read and think.

It is the same like books. They educate if you read them. If they sit on the shelves and are used as doorstoops their educational value approaches nil.

Ford's idea? Or the UAW's? (1)

dweiss (128227) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288389)

As I understand it, the UAW was insturmental in getting Ford to dish out the computers. I wouldn't be so quick to chalk up this move to corporate generosity or vision. I think keeping the union happy with a non-monetary benefit to workers is more like it. Would Ford rather give $1000 raises or go out an buy 300,000 PCs at a volume discount for its employees?

Re:the Gov. has been doing this for ages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288390)

I work at a national labs and these computers are ONLY for work at home. There is a vast difference in giving computers for just work and giving computers for personal and work use, as Ford is doing. Another thing, give Mr. Katz a break. If you do not like his opinions, go to another source! Why waste "precious bits" as some of you claim on here whining and ranting about it. -----

Motivations (1)

an_Allegory (42234) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288391)

What do people think the motivations of the Ford motor company is?
I was reading ~2 months ago about a union talking about supplying thier members with computers and internet service so as to provide online union information and voting. In the hopes that they could influence more involvement and education of the workers.
Maybe Ford would prefer to give them a TV, or at least a head off the unions from supplying a tool that could be used to organize workers.
Yes, Yes I know that they could access a union page from the Ford computer but is it as likely when it is not thier ISPs homepage?

an_Allegory

I don't get it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288392)

after reading the piece, I still don't understand why giving computers away is a good idea, especially for a car company. I'm not sufficiently enlightened to understand how have thousands of bolt-turners on line does anything for Ford. The arguments presented are long on feel-good blather, and short on specifics. I imagine that if I were a Ford investor/owner, I'd be skeptical of this.

Re:Personal Space (1)

dennisp (66527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288393)

This is certainly interesting. Does anyone out there know of any mentioned strings attached in this case?

The statement in Katz article says:

"Ford says it will offer Internet home pages in 14 languages, and provide home page links to Ford Web sites, with UUNet as the ISP."

This, to me, seems like they will be receiving dialup from UUNet. I know of no draconian protocol sniffing that UUNet does. However, the question still does stand for their company web sites. Since they are company sites, they would likely take into consideration company policy, bureaucracy, polictics, and employee rights. The last, of course, often compromised to fit the company's whims or bottom line.

I could make a statement that we should look at it situationally within a corporation - but often fair judgement is impaired by politics and crappy policies -- so I think the government has to look at some of these issues in more detail to create balance since the corporate machine is often cold to social issues and individual freedoms.

Re:MS Should include C++ compiler with Windows 98/ (1)

Foogle (35117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288394)

Oh, but then who would buy Visual C++?

Seriously though, people can just use Cygwin if they want a free compiler. The VC++ IDE is exceptional though, and I have yet to see a free IDE as good as it (although KDevelop could very well get there soon).

-----------

"You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

Re:Trollin for Scooby (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288395)

Thanks for trolling for Scooby! He appreciates it! Trolling for Scooby-doo! Scooby dooby doo!

The Real Reason (2)

Chops-Frozen-Water (2085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288396)

I think it's simple why they're doing it...
From the Evil Overlord list [eviloverlord.com] :

100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Simple, really...
--

Is Ford benevolent or crafty? (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288397)

When I saw the headline, the first thing that popped into my head is that Ford has implemented an interesting solution to increase productivity. Give them a PC and internet line at home, and then disallow all personal web surfing from the desk at work. Lost revenues verses cost of a PC. This must be the CFO's idea.

Re:Cracking? (1)

Col. Panic (90528) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288398)

I call it stupid too, but it is neither "hacking" nor "cracking" and the media should just call it what it is: distributed DoS.

Color Monitors... Woo-hoo! (2)

ReadParse (38517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288399)

"...computers, color monitors and Net access..."

As opposed to those black'n'white monitors that most companies give to their employees.

Hmmmm... wonder if you can even get a black'n'white VGA monitor, anyway.

RP

Hardware & connexion costs (1)

Madjeurtam (101190) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288400)

If this idea spreads, it could take the Net and the Web to completely new levels

That's true... in the US, where the local phone calls are free.

Here in Europe, an Internet connexion is still very expensive, much more than the computer itself. *DSL and cable are only experimental technologies and the good old PSTN modem is still the only way to surf the net for most of us.

What I wanted to point out is the fact that here, the Internet will make a giant leap when the connexion costs will be affordable by everybody... and not before! :/

Stéphane

Ford... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288401)

Just for the record Henry Ford was a huge anti-Semite. Let's not paint him to be an angel. pooploop who forgot his password

Katz..Preview your posts!! (1)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288402)

"That's why Ford Motor's announcement announcement last week was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers and IPOs. Ford will offer each of its 350,000 employees worldwide, from factory workers in India to designers in Michigan, a high-speed desktop computer, a color printer and unlimited Internet access for just $5 a month. This announcement was potentially the most significant technology news in years, vastly more important than the river of hype about mergers, IPOs and stock prices."

We have to preview before submitting. If you are trying to be a professional writer, act like one.

Re:Clarkson U, Hartwick College (1)

pianiy (102767) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288403)

NJIT has been giving away (for a small fee) computers to all its full time students for the past two decades... they were even giving away 286s at one time. There are many schools that are participating in this type of activity.

Re:Swedish goverment has been there, done that. (1)

Caine (784) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288404)

That's one very true point. =) In general without being to prejudiced, the workers in India perhaps have a little bit tougher buying a PC, than the average swede. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so "They weren't first, we were!", I'm just a little bit bored of the extreme us-centricism on ./ at some times. =)

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288405)

This is a commentary based off of a Ford press release that I spammed to this board a few days ago. Is this a coincidence? I think not
People this is proof that spamming slashdot gets things done, and gets them done quickly. Now let us spam for all our favorite causes and make slashdot truly perfect!!!

Oooh, random thought (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288406)

If greedy corporatism is what Katz was protesting before, isn't this just an example of a greedy corporation attempting to co-op its employees into mindless submission?

Eh, if there was some way to make absolutely sure that the company couldn't infringe on the privacy of its employees, and that the company couldn't own your ideas/creations, Ford's idea would be friggin awesome. But it's meaningless without it. I think.
--
Peace,
Lord Omlette
AOL IM: jeanlucpikachu

A computer in any color you want... (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288407)

...as long as it's beige and runs Windows.

Sorry to spew Anti-MS rhetoric out on this, but you CAN'T tell me this doesn't have anything to do with Microsoft & Ford getting in bed together. Didn't anyone see Captain Bill's Comdex keynote where he was showing off his new Windows based computer in the dashboard of that ugly Focus or whatever it's called? It was real clear that there was some kind of FordMS cooperation going on there.

Of course, Fords suck anyhow (*duck*) now I've got an even better reason.

New for 2001!
The New Ford Internet Explorer!!

Ford and his Legacy (1)

Kailden (129168) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288408)

Henry Ford once developed his car parts from soy beans in order that farmers would make higher profits and in turn buy his automobile...

By handing out computers, Ford is transforming the fear of new technology among its workers to familiarity, and encouraging employees to find a technological edge in thier jobs as well as thier lives.
The impact will be great, as each employe becomes more technologically minded...
either that, or the next car will be made out of silicon...

Re:Katz you are out of the world again (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288409)

What a silly argument. "If they don't use them, they won't help." Man, where'd you get your PhD in logic?

Um, BTW, I make a pretty decent living as an admin based largely on the experience I gained making games work on a variety of machines. That would never have happened if my folks hadn't finally shelled out for a PC (after 2 years of begging). Katz is right, this is a good thing.

Re:Katz you are out of the world again (1)

Xuli (98764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288410)

As a follow on to this, but not necessarily pointing a finger at anyone's opinion as "right" or "wrong," I think that it is great that Ford is excercising its ridiculous ammount of welath (somewhere in the billions in cash reserves alone!) to help better their employees, but there is one question that stands out in my mind:
Who are they helping, themesleves or the employees?
Really, I mean, it is nice to think that Ford is doing this as some sort of service to help out employees and give them something that they might not have access to otherwise, but, in the end, the collaboration, increases in productivity and better means of communication only help to serve Ford.

My company gives me a laptop, it's nice, I like to use it and I'm sure they know that. In fact, they will be happy to keep me updated with the latest technology since they know it'll keep me using it, and, ultimately, putting in more time than I might if I had some crappy desktop that I couldn't wait to shut off at the end of every day. Of course this isn't the case with all people, and, as I sit here posting on Slashdot from home, well, my productivity speaks for itself. But in the case of Ford, by giving the machines paired with access, itsn't it reasonable to assume that with their new found Online capabilities, Ford employees are going to start going home at night and going online only to chat with some other newly wired Ford emplyoees about work? What they are really doing is working, collaborating, exchanging ideas, on their own time!

Perhaps the benefits outweigh the "greedy corporate gains" that Ford gets out of the deal, but it is something ot think about.

On the whole it is refreshing to see that a company as large as Ford realizes the value of familiarizing their employees with technology, if not only to make them more productive on the job. My father works at a local community college where they have been promising all faculty and staff computers and Internet access for the past three years. It seems ironic that secrataries in the smae institution have computers, on which they are known to play games during the workday, and professors, like my father, are forced to communicate with students via an AOL address that they are paying for.

I went to a state university in Massachusetts, the same state that has been promising my father's school technology that never materializes. I worked in the IT department for the four years I was there and it was not uncommon for us to recieve the newest technology as soon as it came out so that we could test software and bugfixes. So, here we are, the student helpdesk with the latest and greatest while the educators, the ones that are supposedly the "core asset" of the whole system, are not even given an old 486, for crying out loud.

I think there is an enormous ammountof inequity in terms of the dispersement of technology, if the example I have provided, of a higher education system that can't even get it right, I can only imagine what it will take to have total technological equality.

On a parting note, there are some encouraging developments, however. I do disagree with the statement of Mr. Katz that there is a rather cavalier and apathetic attitude toward social matters in the tech community. I think that it is just the opposite. There has long been a committment, however mercenary, from the tech community to provide for the less fortunate and to advance educational uses of technology. Think back to the departure of Steve Wozniak from Apple to go off and help the world with technology, or the poorer, less fortunate part thereof. More recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Charitable Trust bequeathed $1 Billion to be used for inner-city technolgy projects over the next few years. The current "tech" culture is strognly linked to its academic past, and, as such, I beleive it has a certain social conscience not seen in other big industries. So, it may not be perfect, but I think the tech companies out there do a lot more for the world than most other industries.

More Katz Ignorance (1)

gammatron (120978) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288411)

In corporate America, it's practically illegal to do anything with money except distribute it to stockholders as quickly as possible. Very few companies still offer dividends - shareholders would generally rather have the money spent on improving the business, driving the share price up. But you'd rather badmouth corportations, despite your statement to the contrary in your opening paragraph.
--

The unions want computers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288412)

The unions asked for the computers. It's to their advantage to use the web to help them organize workers. Katz doesn't have a clue about the real motives here.

Precedent for new entitlement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1288413)

Back when Nixon instituted wage and price controls to fight inflation, companies had to find new ways to encourage employees to stay. They couldn't raise wages, so they offered bonuses like health insurance. This was a revolutionary idea at the time and today seems a little strange--after all, why do companies give you health insurance and not auto or homeowner's insurance. Today, because we expect health insurance as a benefit, it has become a right for everyone.

Today, with a very tight labor market, companies have to find creative ways to keep employees. Ford offers computers rather than stock options. Out of the goodness of their heart? Are workers who e-mail relatives at home more productive when they come in to work on an assembly line? Does Ford's "generosity" really deserve our praise?

How long before owning a computer and having an ISP become rights? Are we looking at creation of Compuaid/Compucare entitlement programs? Will the government soon be talking about taking over the computer/software/telecommunications industries to lower e-mail costs? Will AOL become a federal program? Will the next president nominate Steve Case as Secretary of ISP?

Re:schools dont give away computers? (1)

clearcache (103054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288414)

the university I went to (Drew University in Madison, NJ) did something almost as good as giving them away: gave us computers our freshman year that we paid for over the 4 years we were there...had a network connection in each dorm room...and had a decent campus-wide information system/access to the internet and bitnet before the www "got big". The cons: we paid for a machine that was horribly out of date at the end of 2 years...and still paid for it for another two...and our campus wide network was cutting edge...for a month...and then lapsed for a decade until the funds were spent to update it...

Re:Katz..Preview your posts!! (2)

CormacJ (64984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288415)

I think he needs an editor. This is something that would have been caught elsewhere.

I just don't get it (2)

Zoltar (24850) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288416)

Well...color me confused...but I really don't get it. Sure this is nice of Ford...thet get tons of great PR to go along with a nice tax write-off, but how is this "ground-breaking, technological history in the making" I really don't get it.

Maybe I'm different but I would rather have them give me an extra $1000 in stock perks than a new computer that will be obsolete in 3-4 years.

If Ford wants to make a difference why don't they institue programs to give computers/internet access to the lower class families who can't afford them. THAT might help make a difference.

Or maybe go to inner city schools and give them computers and pay for some quality technology proffessionals to go in and help the kids learn how to use them. THAT might make a difference.

Color me cynical but I really don't see this as anything special or groudbreaking.

Re:Good things don't get press (2)

348 (124012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288417)

That was sort of the point I was trying to get to and I kind of drifted away from it. These types of commitments get made every day,not all of this magnitude of course, but they do get made. The companies/individuals (Like Paul Newman) don't nessasarily do it for the press either, they do it because they can and they feel it's the right thing to do for a particular community or cause. It is a shame that they don't get better coverage, I think it would snowball the effort, but that's not really why they're doing it for the most part.

Ford I think is sorta in the middle. Yeah, good PR, good for the employees etc., but in the long run, it will make Ford more money, I really think this was their motivation, but a great commitment none the less.

Great oppurtunity to extend the linux community (1)

Kailden (129168) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288418)

Maybe a linux start-up should mail free cds of linux to all of the ford employees....

Re:What about Northwest Airlines?? (1)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 14 years ago | (#1288419)

No Northwest did not give the computers to the people who's privacy they felt they had a right to rape, they were their own personal home computers.

As far as being easier to "appropriate data on a machine that was 'given' to an employee", that depends on whether the machine is actually "given" away or not, whether or not it's still the property of the employer. If they truly give them away, they're SOL, it's just plain not their property anymore.
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