Is it me, or has there been a recent wave of headlines from Redmond that add up to a Microsoft clamp-down of the sort that could easily drive people away from destkop Windows? The most recent of these, which not surprisingly has drawn a very vocal reaction from some ZDNet readers, is a news story about how the grace period that allowed Microsoft customers to disable the automatic installation of the security update-laden Windows Service Pack 2 is coming to a non-negotiable end. (So says a page on Microsoft's Web site.) Says News.com's Ina Fried in the story, "Microsoft is alerting customers that it will soon start delivering Windows XP Service Pack 2 to all customers using Automatic Update, whether they want it or not." In other words, the only way to stop SP2 from being installed is to disable Windows' Automatic Update, which in turn could disable other updates that users want or need (for example, one like this that addresses a problem with third-party security software).
Larger enterprises can also redirect Windows AU feature to their own update servers. Even so, it seems as though Microsoft is becoming less flexible about the sort of granular control that end users and businesses can have over their desktops--an approach that's philosophically antithetical to the virtues of Linux as extolled by its advocates.
Even further tightening its control, in the same week that the SP2 news surfaced, Microsoft announced that in an effort to curtail misappropriation of the certificates of authenticity that come with pre-installed versions of Windows, it would disallow Internet-based activation of Windows for people looking to re-install Windows from the original media that came with their PCs. Let's forget for a minute that the idea of activating products runs counter to everything the Linux and open source community believes. Perhaps we should be asking if this is a sign that, once again in the history of PCs, another software copy protection scheme has failed. After all, as the technology was described to me back in the days when Windows XP was coming to market, Microsoft's Product Activation for Windows (WPA, not to be confused with Wi-Fi Protected Access) contained some rocket science for fingerprinting systems in a way that prevented the use of unauthorized duplicates of Windows. Apparently, that technology isn't working out. So, to address the problem, as well as Microsoft's discovery that one of its most promising revenue growth opportunities is to crack down on piracy, the logistics of managing Windows just got even more complicated.
In response to my question to Microsoft as to whether the move could be perceived as the Redmond, WA-based company becoming more inflexible and whether that