Microsoft’s Clippy Rebels, Targets Dirty Clouds

Uh-oh, Clippy’s back. And he’s not happy about dirty clouds.

No, this isn’t some hellish Easter Egg designed into Windows 8. It’s the latest publicity stunt by Greenpeace, which has sent protesters dressed as Microsoft’s iconic character to Microsoft Stores to crash the Windows 8 launch.

“Connecting to the cloud is a great feature of Microsoft’s stuff,” Greenpeace wrote in a blog post last week. “We love the Internet! But as the Internet grows, it needs more electricity, and unfortunately, Microsoft’s getting the electricity for its cloud from old, dirty sources. The massive data centers that store and compute the data for Microsoft’s cloud use a lot of electricity, and much of it comes from dirty, dangerous old sources like coal and nuclear power.”

Microsoft’s most recent data-center announcements, the posting continued, “show that is it continuing to build in locations such as Wyoming and Virginia in the United States that are attached to dirty energy. Despite over 250,000 messages to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has yet to significantly invest in clean energy.”

The “250,000 messages” refers to an online petition to convince Microsoft that it needs to invest in green energy, not coal-fired power plants. The same petition was sent to Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, as well as Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.

The chipper Clippy mascot is shown holding a sign that reads, “Microsoft, it looks like you want to build a cloud. Would you like help: powering it with clean energy? No, I want to continue using dirty energy.” Oddly, both options are checked.

Greenpeace has previously objected to Microsoft’s use of coal to power data centers located in Virginia and Wyoming, which maintain “carbon neutral” status buy buying renewable energy credits rather than trying to actually reduce the amount of coal the data centers indirectly consume. The credits are paid for in cash.

Greenpeace called out Microsoft for this statement made by the Imperial College of London, which produced a report on carbon abatement via cloud computing: “Yet, our research shows where a Cloud data centre is located is more important in CO2 terms than the overall efficiency of the data centre—a cleaner energy source will more readily deliver higher carbon savings than investing in efficiency.”

Greenpeace, for its part, has praised companies like Google for embracing renewable energy.

“Today’s release of Windows 8 and the Surface–both products that will be heavily integrated into the cloud–mean more and more electricity use by Microsoft. Microsoft’s launch today is a great opportunity for them to bring us the greenest tablet and software out there, but Microsoft can only do that if it embraces clean energy,” Greenpeace wrote.

For Microsoft, it’s looking like Clippy will remain an annoyance.


Image: Greenpeace