08/05/2001 The world of commerce is a strange one. In the good old days, you bought a goat with a pile of turnips and the goat stayed bought. Easy. Now, Microsoft's revising its licensing conditions for its big customers so that once Windows or Office has been bought, they keep on being bought. While you use the software, you pay Microsoft a licence -- you can buy it outright, but it costs a lot more. And so the drift back to the bad old days of the mainframe continues. Microsoft can do this to its big customers in the same way that IBM and the Seven Dwarfs (oh... ask your grandfather. Or Guy) could slap enormo-fees on theirs. The customer has no alternative. Could it happen on our desktops? In theory, yes. The way technology's going it could happen on our desktops, our DVD players, even our cars -- imagine how happy the Department of Transport would be if our motors refused to run unless car tax, insurance and MOT were all up to date. Hell, the kettle will be charging us a little extra per cup for our morning Blue Mountain next. To arms, citizens!