Today is the day when Microsoft Vista starts shipping, and this operating system may indeed turn out to be quite painful for governments, companies and users around the world.
The main problem is not the graphical user interface. If you are interested in those you might be interested in the Technology Review article “Uninspiring Vista — How Microsoft’s long-awaited operating system disappointed a stubborn fan” by a self-declared Microsoft champion who concludes on purely technological grounds:
Ironically, playing around with Vista for more than a month has done what years of experience and exhortations from Mac-loving friends could not: it has converted me into a Mac fan.
It is the underlying technology strategy and its consequences that will be a severe source of pain. Central in this is the one feature that has truly been perfected in Windows Vista, the mass-incapacitation of users, also known as Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). DRM brings with it severe political issues, as I also explained in earlier posts. But of course the cost is not only political, there is also a financial cost to DRM, which Peter Gutmann calculated in his essay “A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection.”
But it doesn’t end there. As the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) points out in a 26 January media release : “With Vista Microsoft continues its illegal practices.”.
Not only is Microsoft trying to impose its own proprietary OpenXML format in order to marginalise the existing true multi-vendor Open and ISO-certified Standard, the Open Document Format (ODF) — please follow these links for more information: . You should also read the analysis of Cory Doctorow: ” How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In“
Largely unnoticed due to the discussion around the OpenXML attack on ODF, Microsoft also introduced a new markup language in Vista, called “XAML.” This language seems designed to attack the existing Open Standard HTML and is ground-up dependent on Windows.
If companies started using this language in their intranet, they would no longer be able to run heterogenous environments and will be locked into Windows much more effectively than before — at a high price in finances and freedom to make the necessary business decisions. This will be bad for those companies, but others should be able to take their place.
But if the internet providers were to start using this markup language for their pages, it will no longer be possible to access those pages with anything but Microsoft Windows. Governments using XAML will force their entire population and economy into dependence on the Windows monopoly, and if it spreads far enough, it could mean the end of the multi-platform heterogenous environment that is the internet.
People who do not use Microsoft Windows might find themselves unable to communicate with their governments, to fill out tax declarations, to access news sites and do shopping online. The whole internet will truly have become a “Microsoft Network” — similar to the one shipped with previous versions of Windows that was abandoned for internet support because it did not raise sufficient interest.
In essence, XAML is Microsofts attempt to deliver on the statement made by Steve Ballmer towards the German Manager Magazin in 2005:
“We needed the first years to conquer the PC and those following to be ahead in the server business. In the upcoming years we’ll conquer the Internet.”
Seeing the internet replaced by a single-vendor controlled proprietary network would indeed be painful — and that ‘Ow’ starts with Vista. But you can also choose this moment to end your pain. As the FSFE pointed out in its press release today, there is another Vista message:
Upgrade to GNU/Linux now!
Such a migration will be no more expensive than migrating to Vista. It will also provide vendor independence, control over your own infrastructure, true support of Open Standards, which will ensure your ability to read your own files in the future and with the application of your choosing, and much, much more.