The Customer Doesn’t Come First

There’s a sign at the entrance to Stew Leonard’s Dairy Store in Norwalk, CT. Actually, it’s a boulder with this inscription carved in the rock:

Rule #1–The Customer is Always Right

Rule #2–If the Customer is Ever Wrong, Re-Read Rule #1

Keep that in mind as you read on.

Microsoft is about to release a new version of its Windows operating system. If you’ve got a computer now, you’ve probably got Windows XP. There might have been a time when you used Windows 98 or Windows 95 or even Windows 3.1. Those are operating systems.

Most computer users don’t have to bother with them. They’re just there. The operating system comes with their computer. There’s no need to change it.

But, if and when you buy a new PC, Vista will be all you can get. Actually, there will be incentive not to change what you’re currently running.

I’ve just read a fascinating paper by a professor from New Zealand. He’s worried about Windows Vista, the new OS.

Here’s his point, boiled down to its essence. Windows Vista is designed to protect the interests of the companies that produce or own the rights to ‘content.’ Where their interest and your interest conflict… well, let’s just say Stew Leonard wouldn’t approve.

In order to protect the rights of movie studios, record companies, TV networks and software producers, your computer will have to work harder with hardware that will cost more and often be restricted so it can only do less!

As he states it (I’m not quite smart enough to know anything other than it sounds plausible) computers will become more expensive and less versatile. They might not provide good video, audio or general performance if there’s a suspicion content might be compromised. Of course that’s a judgment call you won’t make!

Under the right or wrong circumstances, some outside force might bring your computer to its knees, with little recourse for you. This ability to cripple your computer to protect someone else’s content will be built right into the operating system. It’s a feature!

Windows Vista will come bundled on virtually every computer built. Nearly all new hardware will have to comply with its specs or be limited to an extremely fractionalized portion of the market. After all, Microsoft is (for all intents and purposes) the only game in town.

The real question is, will this product, designed to throttle not enhance the user experience, be too much to take? Will Microsoft have finally crossed some invisible threshold, killing the goose that lays its golden eggs? How long can a business thrive when the customer comes last?

Threats look much more ominous at this distance. Some parts of this will surely shake out and be more benevolent than they seem. But right now at least, Vista isn’t on my wish list.

3 thoughts on “The Customer Doesn’t Come First”

  1. I’m curious to see how this will finally shake out by the time Vistas is released. I find the article interesting in that he claims Microsoft will now protect content on behalf of the entertainement Industry in exhange for a monopoly on the delivery channel. This from a company that STILL cant manage to protect us from malicious code & security threats. Now (according to the article) they want to protect corporate interests. I’ve seen this before with Microsoft on pre-release of new operating systems – a controversial feature comes to light, everyone complains, then it’s mysteriously missing from the final release version. This time though, I’m not so hopeful, but we’ll see how this plays – so far, this report is the only souce of info on this issue, with no one else corroborating the claims.

    Worst case scenario – I’m prepared to stick w/ XP for a few more years.

  2. Good article. I have changed to a MAC to use the OSX operating system that is more concernned about the customer. For those that have PCs there is the LINUX operating system.

  3. The worst of it is that they can claim to be doing what the content providers are asking. The MPAA is already over-reaching (IMNSHO) in its demands to protect content, and this just plays right along with it. The Justice department was unable to reach a settlement where it is clear M$ has an overwhelming monopoly; it will have little more success if it decides to challenge Vista.

    I’ll be on 2K and XP until I finally move over to Linux. I’ve been dabbling with the Knoppix live CD-ROM, and I think it’s almost ready for prime time…

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