. Let me answer specifically from personal experience, using Vista x64. I'll take the long way, so be patient with me.
From what Microsoft marketed to us on what Vista would do from 2004-06 and what we got, it's been really disappointing for me. And when you compare Vista to Apple's OS X Leopard and something like Fedora 8 or Ubuntu 7.10 on the GNU/Linux side, you quickly find it ain't so special after all, and includes an array of "features" that you don't want. These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure. They'll make your computer less stable and run slower. They will cause technical support problems. They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software. And these features won't do anything useful. In fact, they're working against you. They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry.
And unlike other OSes, with Vista you don't get to refuse them.
Microsoft has reworked a lot of the core operating system to add copy protection technology for new media formats like HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks. Peter Gutmann
wrote a well-circulated article about it, and was widely attacked for it. Certain high-quality output paths — audio and video — are reserved for protected peripheral devices. Sometimes output quality is artificially degraded; sometimes output is prevented entirely (ask Sternfan network guys about this). And Vista continuously spends CPU time monitoring itself, trying to figure out if you're doing something that it thinks you shouldn't. If it does, it limits functionality and in extreme cases restarts just the video subsystem. We still don't know the exact details of all this, and how far-reaching it is, but it doesn't look good.http://www.miraesoft...protection-in-vista/http://www.theinquir...ins-drm-tale-in-blog
As you noted, the BBC, Apple, Disney, NBC, Sony, et al. love DRM, too. Some of these companies (including Jobs on music for iTunes, but not for movies) have realized that DRM just annoys their customers. Like every other DRM system ever invented, Microsoft's won't keep the professional pirates from making copies of whatever they want. The DRM security in Vista was broken the day it was released. Sure, Microsoft will patch it, but the patched system will get broken as well. It's an arms race, and the defenders can't possibly win. Every time Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is patched, it's broken within minutes or hours.I believe that Microsoft knows this
and also knows that it doesn't matter. This isn't about stopping pirates and the small percentage of people who download free movies from the Internet. This isn't even about Microsoft satisfying its Hollywood customers at the expense of those of us paying for the privilege of using Vista. This is about the overwhelming majority of honest users and who owns the distribution channels to them. And while it may have started as a partnership, in the end Microsoft is going to end up locking the movie companies into selling content in its proprietary formats.
Microsoft is reaching for a much bigger prize than Apple: not just Hollywood, but also peripheral hardware vendors
. Vista's DRM requires driver developers to comply with all kinds of rules and be certified; otherwise, they don't work. Why else has HP simply chosen not to write Vista drivers for over 70% of their existing printers? HP publicly stated they wouldn't begin tackling that task seriously until Vista-SP1 was released. And Microsoft talks about expanding this to independent software vendors as well. It's another war for control of the computer market.Unfortunately, we users are caught in the crossfire
. We are not only stuck with DRM systems that interfere with our legitimate fair-use rights for the content we buy, we're stuck with DRM systems that interfere with all of our computer use — even the uses that have nothing to do with copyright.
So far in almost a full year of release, the market has not righted this wrong, because Microsoft's 92% OS position gives it much more power than we consumers can hope to have. It might not be as obvious as Microsoft using its operating system monopoly to kill Netscape and own the browser market, but it's really no different. Microsoft's entertainment market grab might further entrench its monopoly position, but it will cause serious damage to both the computer and entertainment industries. The EU fights this battle with Redmond daily. DRM is bad, both for consumers and for the entertainment industry: something the entertainment industry is just starting to realize, but Microsoft will continue fighting. The result of my Vista experience is that it was the final straw that drove me from Windows to GNU/Linux, and few people were bigger fans of Microsoft than I was.
In light of that experience, the only advice I can offer others is to not upgrade to Vista. It will be hard. Microsoft's bundling deals with computer manufacturers mean that it will be increasingly hard not to get the new operating system with new computers. Even Dell makes it hard to buy a laptop with either XP or Ubuntu installed on it. And Microsoft has some pretty deep pockets and can wait us all out if it wants to. Yes, every time someone shifts to Macintosh, we hear about it, and some (way) fewer number will switch to GNU/Linux like I did, but most folks are stuck on Windows. My real desire is for Microsoft to get on with Windows 7 development and get sensible. Stop with the 5-version OS nonsense; just give us the best OS you make, period.
WGA is a barrier that makes it more difficult for paying customers to legally use Microsoft software and products. Why does Microsoft need to employ WGA against me, a 20+ year user of its products?
— I'm honest.
— I bought your software.
— I registered your software with the serial number and activation code you provided me.
— I didn't steal it.
— I'm not copying it.
— I'm not sharing it.
Why punish me? I don't steal software and I don't mind when people who do get caught. But when Microsoft's WGA servers went down for 24+ hours back in late August, I was one of those who took the hit. It’s not such a big deal until Microsoft starts branding you as a pirate and shutting down parts of your computer just because someone’s unplugged their Windows Genuine Advantage software DRM authentication service, as happened to 12,000 people back in August, me included. I didn't make a big deal of it because my principal OS is GNU/Linux and I booted up the Vista machine to see if it was out. True to form, I could surf the net for ONE HOUR, and then I was automatically logged out. That ain't right. My copy of Windows should be good, period, after it's been validated. It shouldn't have to be re-validated continuously. If Microsoft says it doesn't phone home daily, then how come my system went down that long day? How did it know otherwise that my Vista was bad, and on that
For argument's sake, let's you and me assume WGA is about preventing piracy. Like DRM, does it really
, or is this another irony of Microsoft, who sells Vista for $775 in Denmark and $400/Ultimate in the US and $3 in China. $3?!! Why can't I
have China's price?Microsoft Happy with the Evolution of Windows Vista PiracyMicrosoft says college students can 'steal' OfficeWhy Piracy Hurts Open SourceMicrosoft seals its Windows and opens the door to LinuxMicrosoft Exec Admits That Company Benefits From Piracy'Piracy reduction can be a source of Windows revenue growth'
Beyond the whole "trust" factor, it creeps me out that my PC phones home every day to Microsoft's servers to validate my copy of Windows not once, but — "It is important to note that WGA Validation still collects information that is used to determine whether the version of Windows is genuine
" — any time it wants. Even Ed Bott
is creeped out over it and notes how its malfunction tanked people's computers. Ed even wrote a more detailed
post on WGA's continuing failures. If you're a business, you cannot — can never — allow another company to hold your data hostage. Again, I already bought, registered, and activated your software. You have my money. You have my credit card. You have my name, my address, my IP address, my email, and so on. How MUCH MORE does Microsoft need to validate me?
It's the equivalent of waking up every morning and calling your wife a cheating bitch... until she proves otherwise. It gets old fast. Keep treating her like one and you won't be married for long. Same rule of behavior applies to loyal users. Call them thieves long enough, and they'll bolt.
Microsoft's whole WGA campaign remains nakedly disingenuous (is that an oxymoron?). This Microsoft press release
speaks at length about the problems that pirated software causes for businesses and users, and persists in the notion that WGA exists principally to help Microsoft's customers. It never once says, "We're doing this to prevent people from stealing the software we've spent millions to develop."
Here's the irony: when you make it difficult for registered users to legally use your software, you encourage piracy at worst, and switching to other alternatives at least. When it's easier to download a copy of Vista (or XP or Office) from usenet that has all the latest updates and bypasses activation and registration than it is to comply, it's bad news for Microsoft.