Mention “Ma Bell” in the presence of any aging Baby Boomer, and you’re sure to get at the very least a knowing roll of the eyes. It was the pop culture label slapped onto the gargantuan American Bell Telephone Company, which pretty much monopolized telecommunications in the United States from 1877 until the behemoth was broken up in 1984 as a result of a 1974 antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice.
That phrase, “Ma Bell,” was less a condemnation of government-sanctioned monopoly than it was an expression of how consumers perceived the telephone company thought of them. It was Mother knows best, which meant, Sit down, shut up, and pay your phone bill. If you don’t like it, find another phone company. Did Ma Bell care what people thought? The answer is another question: Why should it have? For more than a century, “find another phone company” meant fetch a pair of tin cans and a ball of twine.
Times and technologies have changed, and by orders of magnitude.
It all begins by caring about what consumers think. And for that reason, even as Microsoft deploys policies and technologies to empower and enable it to know what we think, we respectfully ask: Does Microsoft care what we think?