Friday, November 24, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name

Microsoft is so afraid of pissing people off that they resort to all kinds of naming shenanigans to attempt to hide the truth.
As reporters discovered yesterday, a Microsoft Knowledgebase article updated just last week described RFM for Office 2007 as disabling a user's ability to create new documents, edit existing documents or to save documents edited within the suite, though the user can open existing documents and print them. Reports have stated this updated document is evidence that Microsoft, contrary to prior statements, is building a "kill switch" into Office, and perhaps into Windows Vista as well.

Microsoft yesterday afternoon rejected the characterization of RFM as a "kill switch," citing that RFM does not completely disable Office. But reporters have counter-argued, if you can't save and you can't edit, that's as good as killing it, isn't it? The ensuing argument is starting to take on the characteristics of Monty Python's classic "Dead Parrot Sketch." Is Office dead, or is it just resting?

Call it a freaking kill-switch - who cares? It's your product, if people do not want to activate it you are fully within your rights to turn off functionality.

This is not going to work though; the people that this is supposed to really affect - software pirates - will find hacks to kill the kill switch. Which leaves you with legitimate users irritated by "features" that are only intended to irritate. Meanwhile, Microsoft has to staff up help desks to deal with this nuisance.

Fortunately, this type of shenanigan is going to be short-lived. Software installed on computers isn't long for this world. Just look at the gaming industry - the big games all have an online component which is (nearly) impossible to pirate. The software industry will follow-suit - you only have to look as far as Microsoft's aquisition of Softricity to see where the future is heading.

You will buy software that only installs some of the bits on your computer - the rest will be online somewhere and you will have to log into the application to turn it on. This is good for all sorts of reasons that I may blog about later, but the good news for now is DRM/copy protection and all the headaches it involves, isn't long for this world.

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