how to lose business, microsoft style

This pissed me off:

Screenshot: alert telling me that the Windows 2000 install disk has been disabled since my system has Windows XP on it.

Strange as it may seem, I'd decided to go back a version. I have XP on my home machine; but despite the nice aspects (the font smoothing and the inbuilt image previews) the shitty side of XP has won. I do not want to have to ring Microsoft if I reinstall more than five times. I do not want to have to dick around with keylocked security patches. I do not want to have those patches doing all kinds of dodgy information gathering.

In short, Microsoft have crippled a decent product in their misguided attempts to stop piracy. As per usual, the only people truly inconvenienced are legit users. Pirate patches and registry hack workarounds have already been posted around the net. To put it another way, pirates can pirate your patches just as well as the original product. I mean, DUH.

So at any rate; I've been using Win2k at work for some time now and really it's not bad. Crashes are fairly rare since I don't use MS Office products very often (Textpad, Adobe and Macromedia, mostly) and it doesn't take that long to load. I can live without XP's pretty impressive ability to remember my workspace after suspension... of course, I can also live without XP's habit of losing the taskbar and system tray about ten minutes after it comes out of hibernation.

So I popped in my copy of win2k to check all is well with the installer before proceeding to the scary Wipe Everything stage. That's when I got the alert illustrated above. Now I can understand an alert asking Do I Really Want To? Yes/No. That's fine. A good idea, even. But to completely disable installation? Remove the choice between two products, regardless of any other factor? Ridiculous. Possibly even illegal, really. But that wouldn't bother Microsoft.

So of course I now have to wipe everything before I can install Win2k, no really big deal as I've long-since learned that the only way to install a new version of an OS is wipe the drive first. But it really does annoy me.

Besides all of this; I'm still pissed at the price of Windows. I mean, seriously, it's well over AUD$300. Which is an awful lot of money for a product which really isn't that fucking good. If Linux was a little easier to set up and run; I'd do it. But I really just want an easy ride at home - I don't have endless time any more, work took care of that.

But here's the thing. Windows is expensive; and "upgrades" are frequent enough that you can't argue it's an investment that will be spread over time. As a friend of mine observed: "It's enough to make you turn to a life of crime."

Meanwhile, Ahead's burning software Nero is available at my local computer shop for a mere $35. Norton Antivirus, with a year's worth of updates, is just $50 (I missed the $35 special, damnit). Textpad, available online, has a generous trial period then is just $50 for a single user. It's not worth the hassle of pirating products like these; to say nothing of the fact that they are GOOD. They do their job well, inspiring loyalty.

But then you have Microsoft, and - sorry - Adobe and Macromedia. All of these companies put out very expensive software. Adobe and Macromedia put out packages which work very well; but do you think the average home user can afford Photoshop? It's over a thousand of your hard-earned. Fuck me, that's half what I spent on the entire computer. If I want PageMaker as well, the hardware will have cost less than the software. I can't justify that in my budget. Few can. Some of us are lucky enough to have all this stuff at work, covered by site licences to allow home use. But that really is the minority. Most people do not have this option. So people do the only thing they can - they pirate the software.

So, what am I saying?

There are two basic ingredients to stopping casual piracy:

  1. Make your products good enough to be worth their price.
  2. Make your products cheap enought for the average joe to buy them.

If you could go buy Dreamweaver MX or Photoshop 7 for $50, would you spend large amounts of time running around looking for pirate software? Hell no. Of course, if you can't afford it at any price; you're going to pirate the software. There's nothing they can do stop all piracy - some people just can't or won't pay.

Software companies need to make money, yes. They produce (mostly) good product, yes. But they price them too high; and charge too much for upgrades. They don't reward loyalty, they don't fix bugs before moving on to development of the next version.

Basically, they don't earn our business. Then they cry foul because people pirate their software.

So you get a good product being ditched because it's crippled by its attempts to stop piracy.

Microsoft: Where will we let you go today?

Screw you, MS. Just like you screw us.

2002.09.30

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