What Does ObamaCare And Microsoft Have In Common?

Here are two paragraphs from a recent CNN story on the ObamaCare website mess:

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen tried to enroll in Obamacare as an experiment. It took more than a week for her to create a login and password. When that finally worked, error messages plagued her efforts when she tried to log in. Almost two weeks went by before she succeeded in logging in and proceeding with an application.

An insurance industry source told CNNMoney’s Tami Luhby that insurers are receiving faulty information about new customers, including duplicate forms, and missing and garbled information. They are in discussion with regulators and the administration to address these issues.

Journalist Mike Barnicle, whose role on MSNBC’s Morning Joe involves giving voice to the ignorance of the Common Man—a role he was born to play—said today about the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces:

The larger point is they keep using the word “unacceptable.” This is outrageous; it’s not unacceptable. They’ve had two years to pull this program together—in a country where you can go out to San Jose, California…and find five people to put together a website in about six seconds…

Oh, yeah? Ever heard of Windows RT? It is the version of Microsoft’s operating system that runs certain portable devices the company sells that feature processors marketed by a British company called ARM Holdings. According to PC Magazine, ARM chips are “the most widely used microprocessors worldwide.” In fact, the ARM processor “powers most smartphones and tablets today,” says Time Tech. So, you might say Microsoft’s Windows RT is a big bleeping deal, when it comes to software. And you might say that the geeks at Microsoft, and the executives who are running the company these days, would make sure they get the recent software update right the first time. Nope.

Here is a story released late last night from Computerworld and titled, “Microsoft yanks Windows 8.1 update for Surface RT after ‘Blue Screen of Death’ reports“:

Microsoft on Friday yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update from its Windows Store after some Surface RT owners reported their tablets had been crippled…

The snafu was an embarrassment for Microsoft, as its Surface RT tablet, which debuted a year ago, has been the only Windows RT-powered device that has sold in any meaningful quantity.

People responsible for this embarrassing snafu are like the “five people” Mike Barnicle says could “put together a website in about six seconds,” when he is criticizing the Obama administration for the poor rollout of the insurance marketplace website. The point here is that Microsoft, no doubt, has plenty of talented people at its disposal to produce software that works. But you know what? This stuff ain’t easy. If it were, people like Mike Barnicle would be doing it.

I want you to read the following paragraph from the Computerworld story:

While other reported problems with the Windows 8.1 update seemed to be rooted in device driver incompatibilities — understandable considering the breadth of the Windows ecosystem, which relies on a bewildering array of hardware components and peripherals, each with its own vendor-built driver — the fact that the Windows RT 8.1 update bricked the Surface RT, which has a single set of specific components and drivers, magnified the mistake.

Get that? “A bewildering array of hardware components and peripherals, each with its own vendor-builit driver.” Now, imagine the complexity involved in putting together, without any problems, a system that not only has to run or support the insurance exchanges for 36 states, but it also has to interface with various insurance company systems—as the government sends crucial data through the pipeline—as well as interface with other state and federal computer systems, like, for instance, the IRS. Add to all that the initial overloading of the system—almost 9 million unique visitors in the first three days—by people interested in seeing what coverage was available and its cost. So, it is understandable that the thing has problems.

That being said, the level of problems we are seeing, and how the development and debut of the site has been managed so far, is, despite Mike Barnicle’s rejection of the word, unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. There’s no better word for it. The site needs to be fixed and fixed very soon. Many of the state exchanges are working relatively well and people are enrolling. It’s necessary, if we are ever to figure out whether the ObamaCare experiment will work nationally, to get the national enrollment portal working and working well.

Because, as the severely critical, left-leaning Ezra Klein wrote recently:

…it’s important to see the Affordable Care Act as something more than a pawn in the political wars: It’s a real law that real people are desperately, nervously, urgently trying to access. And so far, the Obama administration has failed them.

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NOTE: I kid you not: As I was about to publish this piece, my browser crapped out and I got this message:

google crome crashDamn! Why can’t the geeks get it right?

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