"It's still better than the Linux condom!" (Paul J. Richards/Getty images) “It’s still better than the Linux condom!” (Paul J. Richards/Getty images)

The Gates foundation — quite justly — is trying to create a Next Generation condom. Currently, there are something like 750 million global users of condoms — although 830 million more insisted that they were when asked. But as the foundation points out, what other device has been around for hundreds of years with limited innovation in all that time? Perhaps an improved design could inspire more people worldwide to be responsible. It is offering $100,000, with the possibility of up to $1 million, to aid in the development of a product that skirts the current complaints of diminished sensation and confusing application.

My favorite line in the request is that the Gates foundation is not interested in funding “testing of products already on the market.” Good try, though, Carl!

Still, hearing that Bill Gates is trying to encourage “development and testing of new condom shapes/designs that may provide an improved user experience” does make one quail a little.

Given Gates’ track record in supporting Next Generation things, I am a little concerned. Remember Windows Vista? He thought that was enhancing the user experience. The last thing we need is to replicate that experience with prophylactics. If the “next generation” condoms are anything like Next Generation Windows, you will be stopped midway through by an error message informing you that you have performed an illegal operation and need to restart. “Would you like to send an error report?” it will ask. “No,” you will murmur, crawling off into a corner to die in shame.

“This is great!” Gates will say. “This is what millions of men and women worldwide were missing! People love it when you ask them if they want to send an error report. It shows you care.”

Or worse, Clippy will make an appearance. “It looks like you’re wrint a letter” a voice will intone, alarming the other participant. “Do you need help?” By the time you have gotten rid of Clippy, the mood will be ruined, and you will have composed several letters and accidentally closed several windows that you did not mean to.

“This offers you 3800% more sensation, including some sensations only previously accessible by walruses and Vulcans!” a Vista Condom will inform you. “But it may without any warning whatsoever stop working, giving you both herpes and twins. On the bright side the graphics are so vivid if your processor is up to speed.”

Older machines are bound to have difficulty with whatever they come up with.

You remember Windows XP. Sure, it’s fine now — but when it first came out, there were patches being issued with an alarming regularity. This is really not an option when it comes to prophylaxis. “Well, it won’t happen AGAIN!” Windows support will cheerily inform you, as you rear septuplets.

The last thing you need when you are trying to be safe is to get an error message telling your that a Required DLL file could not be found and that it could not delete explorer.exe because that file was already in use. What is a required DLL file? Why is Internet Explorer involved in this at all?

By the time the Condom XP has convinced you of its reliability and usability, they would be trying to foist the Condom Vista on you, or the Condom 8, which worked pretty well on your phone but in general made you sort of wish you’d gotten a Condom OS X Mountain Lion instead.

All in all, these are dangerous waters, and no matter what someone will come chasing after you insisting that the Linux Condom is the way to go. Still, it’s not a bad idea for innovation. As long as the foundation can keep the Blue Screen of Death out of it.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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