Yesterday Microsoft outlined the steps it is taking to prevent end users pirating their yet to be released Windows Vista operating system, the successor to Windows XP. According to Microsoft the net is closing around people aspiring to pirate Vista as it will be disabling features on non-verified copies of the operating system. Much like with Windows XP, Vista users will be required to validate their copy as genuine by using the supplied product key within 30-days. If not, the operating system will be disabling features such as programs that safeguard the user against attacks from viruses, mal- and spyware and other security threats. Thatís how Microsoft pitched it yesterday, but from where Iím sitting theyíve just opened up a can of worms, a big one at that.
I can think of a number of scenarios where Iím unable to register my legitimately bought copy of Windows. Just suppose I was late with registering my newly bought copy because I misplaced the box with the product key, I know it is rather foolish, but it happens. Yet after 30-days the carpet is pulled from under Windows Vistaís security features and Iím exposed to the netís virtual thugs and villains thatíll potentially wreck havoc to my files, gain access to personal information such as bank account details or credit card info, etc. So when I finally do manage to find my product key and register my copy my system could be infected with a whole slew of viruses and other mal- and spyware, it might even have been turned into a spam relaying server. Howís Microsoft going to fix that? And Iím not even going to go into the risk of having personal information stolen, such a credit card details. Sure, I was late registering, but I bought and paid for this operating system in the first place, hence Iím not a pirate, yet I am getting the same treatment. Is this fair? Or even a proper way of conducting business?
I beg to differ, it is a sure way to spout new security threats, expose personal computers to hackers, viruses and other threats, but above all it puts Microsoft in a position where they force the end user to comply with their rules. Buying their software basically puts your files, personal information and everything else you see fit to store on your computer in their hands. Whoís to say that next week they decide that anyone using (for example) XDVDcopy 2.0 is a pirate, regardless of whether they have a genuine copy of Vista and start to delete any file with the *.mov, *.mpg of *.avi extension that resides on that system. Iím sure the movie and music industry would rejoice, or even pay top dollar for Microsoft to go down that route. In reality it is a small step from remotely disabling certain features to actually collecting all your personal information or simply having full access to your files, and possibly tampering with them.
Big corporate firms have a neck for interpreting the rules to fit their agenda, bending the laws as they see fit, as history has shown us many times over. Will, or rather is, Microsoft going down that road as well? Iím sure the pressure from the music and movie industry is immense, as is their own desire to increase profits and fight piracy, after all theyíre a business, and businesses are there to make money, not to provide a service free of charge. In the end it comes down to how much corporate control youíll be willing to put up with and whether you care if a big corporation has control over your computer by remote. I for one do not want any corporation to have that much control, it is indeed as if Microsoft has taken notes from George Orwellís book 1984. So Iím steering clear of Microsoft Vista for now, or maybe even indefinitely, for the reasons outlined above. Iím sure others will too, which will undoubtedly hurt sales, as Vista didnít look as much of an upgrade to begin with, but has now lost most of its appeal when Microsoft announced how itíll be fighting piracy and what this means for the amount of control they have over your Ďpersonalí computer.