People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both – Benjamin Franklin
Microsoft's latest offering, Windows Vista, includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Security researcher Peter Gutmann has released A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection which gives a detailed explanation of just what the protected-content paths in Windows Vista mean to you the consumer: increased hardware cost and even less OS robustness. As a user, there is simply no escape. Whether you use Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, OS X, Solaris (on x86), or almost any other OS, Windows content protection will make your hardware more expensive, less reliable, more difficult to program for, more difficult to support, more vulnerable to hostile code, and with more compatibility problems. Because Windows dominates the market and device vendors are unlikely to design and manufacture two different versions of their products, non-Windows users will be paying for Windows Vista content-protection measures in products even if they never run Windows on them.
I see this as an issue extending beyond Microsoft. Microsoft couldn't have cared less how many movies were being pirated as long as they sold Windows and Office. The duplicity of their deceitful ODF negotiations, the proven anti-trust cases, the failure to pay legally assessed fines, the “Trusted Computing” debacle and the SP2 – WGA fiasco (and the corresponding double charging of customers) and an unbelievably abusive licensing / EULA structure have earned them what they are now beginning to reap. If even half of what we have seen and read about DRM and intrusive Spyware, Patronware and the unforgivable deleting of existing user/customer files solely on the suspicion that they may not be legitimate, is indeed true, the company's merits do not assess well in the clear light of day and will not easily withstand the test of time.
In the realm of personal prognostication: In the dealings of Microsoft I detect a certain arrogance that allows them to believe they are above governments, laws, the interests of their customer base, and the inherent and inexorable justice of the marketplace.
Don't get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the free market. Some serious smarts, a good product and a world class set of stones can and should take a man or a company all the way to the top. Some unconventional attitudes alone can and do lead companies who are well placed to tremendous success.
I'm no fan of over-regulation, idiotic and self serving intrusion by governments into business and the marketplace, and the dunning of the successful – just because they are. However, Microsoft has taken free market values to a place where they have been supplanted by an unrivaled hubris. If one uses human history as an insightful guide to human behavior, nothing good can come from that…