In what may be the most backward suggestion I have heard from Microsoft, they are suggesting making computers more like cell phones — and not in a good way.
You may have noticed that competition and increasing sophistication on the part of consumers is steadily pushing cell phone companies away from the “lock in” model and toward a model where the service and the telephone are entirely separate. This is universally hailed by a good thing by everyone that matters. You might be old enough to remember the bad old days before the AT&T breakup, when the phone company owned your phone, and told you what you could do with it. This is more or less the position cell phone companies are in today, although the pressure to compete is slowly killing off this absurd business model.
Well, Microsoft thinks we should go back to those bad old days when some company could tell you what you could do with your property and when. Remember back in the 1990s, when AOL would give you a $200 rebate on a computer, if you signed up for a year or two of AOL? Microsoft’s idea is just like that, except you wouldn’t be able to use the computer for anything other than AOL — not without paying extra.
Remember back in the 1990s, when Circuit City hatched the Divx scheme, which was an attempt to make it so that every time you watched a DVD, that you would have to pay for it? After all, why pay for something once, when you can pay for it over and over again? Microsoft’s idea is just like that, except rather than losing access to Battlefield Earth if you decide not to pay the rental fee, Microsoft would have you lose your tax records, your business correspondence, and the photos of your grandchildren.
I have a hard time believing that even the dolts at Microsoft are stupid enough to think that this would be a good idea. I think it is more likely that this is a preemptive application to prevent a competitor from patenting the idea, a tactic that only makes sense because of how utterly borked our patent system is.