I was thinking last night for a little bit about that EULA for Windows 2000 SP3, and some things occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of before. Now I’ll probably get flamed like hell for saying this, but after I got over the original knee-jerk reaction, I could see why Microsoft is doing this. Remember two important things about Windows, one, only geeks even care about the EULA, and we are 10%, if that, of MS’s customer base. Second, Microsoft is in business, and as such, their main goal is to make money, period.
Now, also add in the fact that the other 90% of their market is going to be where MS puts it’s efforts, not because they don’t care about geeks, but because they know, as well as we know, that to appease us means making the other 90% of their customers unhappy, and those customers will stop upgrading, which is business death to Microsoft! Geeks, on the other hand, are probably already toying with Apple, or Linux and, for the most part, have already decided that they hate Microsoft. If you were in business, how much effort would you put out appeasing a group of people who have already decided to hate you, and that your product sucks? If you owned the other 90% of the market already, I’m guessing you’d spend exactly no effort at all.
So, Microsoft is adding an automatic update feature to the Windows OS. Geeks are up in arms about it. My initial reaction was “no freakin’ way”. But then I thought about my workplace, and how much time I spend manually updating, installing patches and service packs, and other fixes. I wondered how many businesses, Microsoft’s biggest money maker, actually asked for this feature? (I know of a few at least). I also start to think about the home users, the non-geeks out there, who simply want their computer to work and don’t have any idea about security and virii. I’ve heard a number of them complain about having to install patches, and virus updates, wishing that the OS would just do that automatically. Microsoft heard them and is responding. As any good business would!
I also wonder, because there were a small number of geeks who wanted to do this, about those folks who wanted to run a white-hat virus that would automatically patch Windows servers during the Code Red outbreak. What’s the difference? Is it just because it’s Microsoft doing the updating that you don’t like it? How many of these same people use the Google toolbar? Did you notice that it self-updates? Did you scream and cry about how Google was invading your privacy? Or how about your anti-virus product, did you set that up to grab automatic updates? Is it invading your privacy?
Now, I’m not saying that the potential for Microsoft to do some snooping isn’t there, but really, do you think they have the time or the resources to snoop on all of the millions of people using Windows? What makes you think you’re so special that out of the millions of Windows machines out there, Microsoft is going to target your’s and track all of your PC use? I’d be more worried about the DRM potential built-in to this that any snooping potential. But even there, you have to wonder if MS is going to aggravate it’s core home customers with DRM. I’m not sure they know either way whether they will be doing it or not, in fact, it’s my suspicion that they are simply positioning themselves to have a DRM solution ready when/if the Hollings bill either becomes law, or a negotiated settlement is found. It would make good business sense to be the company with DRM already in place if it comes down that all OS’s have to have it built-in. If Microsoft has anything, it’s good business planning.
As far as those of you who live in dread and fear of what Microsoft is going to do next, I’ll give you a twist on your standard answer for every Windows problem that exists, “use linux”. Then you don’t have to spend so much time worrying about it.