Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Microsoft Reduced Functionality Mode-- It's Time for Open Source Software

Microsoft has recently announced that it has activated a "Reduced Functionality Mode" for Windows that allows it to defunctionalize particular copies of Microsoft Windows. It is also believed that Microsoft will extend their technology for "reduced functionality" to other products such as Microsoft Office (if they haven't done so already). According to the following news report:

the reduced functionality includes reducing one's computer to a black screen after one hour of browsing, no start menu or task bar, and no desktop.

Certainly this is legal, conforms with Microsoft license agreements, etc. But who's to say that the functionality will only be reduced for legitimate purposes? Suppose Microsoft doesn't want people using Google. Who is to say Microsoft couldn't defunctionalize Windows for those people? Suppose Microsoft doesn't like your business. Who is to say Microsoft couldn't defunctionalize all of your copies of Windows? The only way to know for sure is to look at the source code, and Microsoft always jealously guards the source code so that nobody knows the extent to which functionality can be reduced. One could seek remedy using a civil suit against Microsoft, but the suit would drag on for years. Meanwhile, you have no working computers and no revenue. And of course the fact that you signed your life away by accepting Microsoft's license agreement will be raised in court. Your business will probably end its death spiral before the case is resolved (i.e. shades of Stac vs. Microsoft).

One of the advantages of open source projects over software such Microsoft Office is that in the open source world there isn't a large entity that can remotely defunctionalize your software. You can see the source code. Other people can see the source code. There are no surprises. I think the time for open-source productivity software has come. Perhaps Verdantium, perhaps something else. But definitely something that can't be defunctionalized on a whim.

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