I wrote this before going on break, but didn’t have time to finish it, and publish. Since drafting this, many others have come to similar conclusions….
I know, it sounds odd, but that’s exactly what Microsoft plans to do with Vista SP1. Vista SP1, in its final form, is set to allow people to install Windows and never activate it.
“Under this new system, no features will be disabled. Instead it will be a notification-based experience similar in some ways to what we have done with XP. A user of a system that has not been activated and gone through the 30-day grace period to activate will, when logging in on the 31st day, see a dialog box on a plain black background,” said Microsoft group product manager Alex Kochis.
“That will give them two options: Activate Windows now, which will bring up all the options to do this, and activate Windows later, which takes them directly to their desktop, which will be exactly the same as it had been the last time they used it, except that there will be a plain black background and a message in the lower right hand corner over the system tray telling them that their copy of Windows is not genuine,” Kochis continued.
So… follow me here. You install Windows, and you no longer have to enter a product key. After 30 days, you can keep using Windows, you just get a different desktop. Seems like Vista has found yet another way to get close to Mac OS X… the activation system appears to be dead, at least for now. With no lockout for Vista users, activating seems trivial. Pirates won’t care if their background is all black.
Now, I know what you’re going to say… “but Chris, I can’t put that on my Mom’s computer, and companies can’t put it on their office computers.” And to that I reply that you’re mostly right… but they’re not targeting folks that way. They’re targeting you, the reader of this blog. The tech savvy user that knows how to launch a patch that will work around this.
Microsoft is going back to its roots… using piracy in the United States as a primary means of evangelizing their product. If Microsoft can get the 1% of the population that is commonly considered a nerd, to pirate Windows instead of use Linux… guess what platform the nerds will push to the rest of the 99% of the population, Windows!
I personally think Microsoft is big enough, that they could split the difference. Find a viable way of accepting nerds into-the-fold, leaving typical users out, and throw free copies of Windows and Office at them… but this is certainly an improvement.