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Fred's Views

Shame on You, Microsoft

Is there anyone who watches U.S. TV (and who doesn't click or fast-forward through commercials) who isn't aware that Microsoft has recently released its latest version of its Windows operating system, Windows XP? Microsoft's strange ads have been appearing several times a night on network TV. One has to wonder how much Microsoft could have reduced the cost of this product if they hadn't wasted so much money on advertising. Enough to make it affordable, probably not, but it would have helped.

There are three big reasons why I haven't, as yet, purchased Windows XP and why I have no immediate plans to do so.

  1. In the first place, $149 Canadian to buy an upgrade to a product Microsoft has failed to get right after fifteen years of efforts is just too much money. $50 would be more realistic, In fact, after all the money that I and many other computer users have thrown in Microsoft's coffers in the hopes of getting an operating system that is reliable, this upgrade should be free. And the worst of it is, it will cost me another $149 if I want to upgrade a second machine in my home. That's absolutely wrong! For $149 I should be able to upgrade all of the machines in my home, or at least three of them. (I only have three machines that would meet the high power and memory demands of XP anyway.) If Microsoft were serious about stopping piracy, it would set a more reasonable price and make a licence for additional machines even more attractive. And we all know that Microsoft could afford to do it. (In truth, they'd probably make more money since there would be much less need to use a pirated version.)
  2. Okay, the piracy thing. Microsoft has built new anti-piracy technology into Windows XP (and into Office XP). Amazingly, initial reports indicate that it's working fairly well. But when have we ever known Microsoft to get it right the first time around, or the second? It's never happened in my experience. It's not just that having to call Microsoft's customer service if things go wrong is needlessly time consuming, it's that I don't want to have to call, period. Yesterday, I read an e-mail from a fairly reliable source that there are hundreds of copies of Windows XP with this piracy protection disabled floating around in the "peer-to-peer" portions of the Internet. Seems Microsoft couldn't get it right on that end, at least. I'm not opposed to protecting valuable "intellectual property rights", but there are better methods, starting with giving the customers fair value for the money - something Microsoft has seldom really done.
  3. And speaking of security. I haven't really paid much attention to Microsoft's new "Passport" technology. It's supposed to make using credit cards and other personal data safer on the Internet - but it depends on depositing your personal data on Microsoft's servers - and we know how secure they have proven to be. (If you don't, Microsoft was hacked and invaded several times this past summer.) Other "reliable sources" tell me that Passport is an essential part of Windows XP. I don't know to what extent a Windows XP user could by-pass Passport and still use the Internet as he/she did before. There is probably a way. However, if Microsoft keeps true to form, they won't make it easy to bypass. Passport will be the default and not the option it should be. There have been numerous reports of continuing security holes with Microsoft's products and servers. If I were really paranoid about my privacy, I certainly wouldn't trust Passport or Microsoft.

A recent CompuSmart (apparently "Canada's largest computer superstore") ad stated that the three top reasons for upgrading to XP were ""Powerful integrated digital music and photo tools", "Simpler to use" and "Built-in instant messaging". If those are the top reasons, even more important than better stability, then I guess there's even less reason to upgrade. I'm fairly happy with the digital photo tools I already have (I don't dabble with digital music - yet), Windows ME is simple enough for me to use (except for the disappearing menu items I figured out how to turn off), and I set up instant messaging on my home network with few problems, although I essentially never use it.

I would like to have Windows XP primarily because it is supposed to be the most stable version of Windows yet. Come to think of it, that was the primary reason why I upgraded to almost every new version of Windows that came out. Every time I was disappointed. Maybe, for me at least, Microsoft has cried "Wolf" once too often. (Maybe that's why the ad didn't mention stability!)

I read one other very interesting piece of news yesterday. Apparently Linux can already run some Windows programs. And there is a promise that a new version of Linux will be able to run most if not all Windows programs in the near future. If this turns out to be true, and if there is built-in support for ASP (that's a scripting environment used by web page designers), then I may be saving my money and switching to Linux.

Perhaps Microsoft will finally be proven right in one instance, perhaps they soon really won't have a monopoly on desktop operating systems. We can only hope.

Copyright © 2001 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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