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Squeezing Legitimate Users

Contributed by Paulo

I run a company that (currently!) develops web based systems using Microsoft NT and Win 2000 server, a natural progression from PCs which we were familiar with. But now Microsoft has a virtual monopoly with Windows and there is virtually no money left to squeeze out of the market, they've decided to target all those people they think are using illegal copies of Windows and Office.

Now, I'm not supporting piracy for one moment. But the way the new 'XP' Windows and Office products work, you have to send Microsoft a fingerprint of your computer to prevent users from running multiple machines from a single copy. Problem is, if you upgrade hardware or mess around with big system changes, you'll need to call Microsoft for a new activation code since your software might stop working.

So on top of the privacy implications about sending a whole bunch of information Microsoft has no right to know, you also have the hassle of your software stopping working when you do something to the machine you're perfectly entitled to do.

Interestingly, Microsoft knows this would really annoy IT managers in corporations (who normally license stuff anyway) so they've given bulk licenses a back door round the protection. But small guys like us are just stuck with it.

As we see it you have two options. Either stick with Win2000 and never upgrade again, or start looking for a platform to run your web applications on that will continue to develop without having a load of booby-traps installed.

Since you can run ASP applications on Linux and other Unix platforms with third-party software, I reckon there are a whole load of ASP developers who will begin to see the path of least resistance as Linux. With Chilisoft or Halcyonsoft rather than native Microsoft platforms you can run your existing ASP code without the headache of the new unreliability MS is deliberately building into its software.

In addition, the general thrust of XP is to get us all renting our software rather than buying it (which estimates say is going to cost us twice as much if we upgrade on average every 3 years). So MS are clearly hoping they'll get twice as much money out of the guys who do pay the license fees as well as getting it out of the guys who currently don't. In reality, they will piss off the freeloaders and honest guys alike and force us all to start looking at alternatives.

From this article's author: As an MS developer I don't believe I have any idealistic opposition to Microsoft. I just feel strongly that they're giving even developers who were too busy to look for alternatives a great reason to start doing that. We're getting our first Linux box next month.

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