Windows 7 Activation Technology : Starter should be free instead

Posted on Friday, May 8, 2009 by Erlik

I have just read a blog post about Windows Activation Technology, the technology that will replace WGA (Windows Genuine advantage) in Windows 7. I thinks that this is a stupid move from Microsoft.

First these technologies always end up making false positives, this means that Windows Activation Technology will almost certainly identify some user's legitimate copy as pirated just because they changed some hardware or software component. It is unacceptable that users have to spend time (and thus money) sorting out issues with a component that is just made to help Microsoft track pirates! What Microsoft should do at least is give the users that will be inconvenienced by Windows Activation Technology snafus some compensation (free office licenses anyone?)

Second, Microsoft shouldn't try to prevent people from installing Windows! They are currently losing market share faster than any time before in the last 15 years and they are preventing people from installing their product? That's plain stupid! What they should do instead of investing in stupid Windows Activation Technology is make the iso of Windows 7 starter edition (the one made for Netbooks that can only run 3 applications at the same time) freely available on the web, and then charge for extras: pay a bit extra for video and audio codecs, pay a bit extra for the DVD player, pay a bit extra to be able to run more than 3 applications, pay a bit more for the 3D interface etc...

Microsoft is the only desktop operating system manufacturer that will have something like Windows Activation Technology: Linux is obviously free and OSXis not free but Apple is not really taking any significant steps to stop consumers from installing the OSXon non Mac hardware (companies like Psystar are another matter though). This is bad for Microsoft, because this means that most of the people assembling their own computers will find it easier to install Ubuntu Linux, then OSX, then Windows 7. At the time when Windows was more advanced than Linux this wouldn't matter much, but now that the free Linux OS is easy to use for almost everyone this is a problem for Microsoft!

I do not think that Microsoft can continue to charge the private consumer for the basic functionality of an OS anymore. They should really start to align themselves on the price of free and focus on the professional market and the market for extended functionality!

UPDATE: some in the Ars Forums are suggesting this could put MS into antitrust trouble.

Actually I think that the effect could be the opposite: Microsoft could be providing the "Base" version of Windows free but charge a little money for IE, for Windows Media Player, for the movie editor, the DVD player etc... MS would still make money from the ton of users would would just pay $5 or $10 to have the option enabled rather than research an alternative, and all the competing products like Firefox, opera, powerDVD, VLC etc... could not complain that Microsoft bundles an alternative product for free. The bundling issues disappear because the add-ons would be unbundled.

MS could probably even make some money selling their competitor's product alongside their own. Ex: when someone put a DVD in the computer Windows proposes to unlock the DVD playback in Windows for $10 or purchase powerDVDfor $50 (on which MS receives $10 for the sale). This is the business model of Ububntu: give the OS for free but charge for support and for commercial applications like powerDVDdelivered from the repositories.

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