Tough Choice for Microsoft

I’m sitting at one of my Microsoft powered computers at the moment. Since I built this puppy from individual components, I actually have a full CD version of Windows XP Home – something that seldom comes with computers anymore.

It used to be, prior to Windows XP, that Microsoft’s operating systems were easy to steal. There must be millions of Windows 98 machines running on an operating system that was borrowed from a friend.

Starting with XP, Microsoft made this much more difficult. Now computers need to be activated before the operating system will become permanently enabled. Windows XP versions that come with specific hardware often will not run on other hardware. And, Microsoft has found many of the bogus serial numbers used to activate XP and now deactivates those systems if they try and use Windows Update. Still, if what I’ve read is correct, much of Asia and the Third World’s computers are run on bootlegged copies of Windows XP.

There lies the problem.

I never would have thought of this myself and have to thank Slashdot for pointing it out.

With all the security flaws and weaknesses of Windows XP, should Microsoft continue to deny software upgrades to illegally obtained and installed versions of their software? Surely, if Microsoft allows anyone to keep XP up-to-date, there will be less incentive to buy the disk. On the other hand, by denying these patches, is Microsoft creating an environment where more and more bad code will infect the Internet… which affects legal owners like me!

I’m not sure what advice I’d give to Microsoft. Are they liable for the unpatched versions of their original code? Do they have any obligation to me, a paying customer, when it comes to bootleg copies of their software?

This won’t be the last we’ll hear of this. It’s a very provocative question to ask in an industry that’s anything but simple.