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Microsoft: The Gatekeeper of the Internet 539

jeffy124 writes "C|net is embarking on a seven day comprehensive report on how Microsoft is moving themselves into position to be The Gatekeeper Of The Internet through Windows XP. The first installment explains the basics of how this is going to happen: Reminders that last for days encouraging users to sign up for Passport, and how Windows will evenutally resemble services like AOL."
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Microsoft: The Gatekeeper of the Internet

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  • by Self Bias Resistor ( 136938 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:06AM (#2446391)

    The point is not that the technically adept will possibly somehow be denied access to the Internet (which wouldn't happen for a whole slew of technical reasons), but that Micrsoft will get an unfair headstart on those who aren't technically minded. Your 'average user' may not know that you don't need Passport to use the Internet under Windows XP. But if he/she gets constant reminder messages for days suggesting to them that they get a Passport account, then they may start thinking "if I don't get a Passport account, I may be missing out on something (ie. may not be getting the "best" services)". Especially if, as the article suggests Microsoft might starting including "features" in XP that may only be accessed with a Passport account. Those who know enough about computers will know how to set up their systems under XP using their own software and Internet access. But it's the 'average user', who doesn't know these things, that it's going to most affect.

    In this case, education will the key. If people know that they can use XP just fine without a Passport account, then they may be less likely to sign up for one in future (hey, it's yet one more password to memorise). That is, unless MS doesn't in future require users to have such accounts to use key features of the operating system. It's bad enough that it's compulsory to register your copy of Windows XP (otherwise it stops functioning). To say nothing of the fact that even in the face of an (once) impending antitrust suit by the Department of Justice, MS are continuing to "bundle" products and services to their operating systems more tightly than ever.

  • by n8willis ( 54297 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:23AM (#2446476) Homepage Journal
    Is anyone else amused that the Justice Department has a separate contact address [] just for people who want to complain about Microsoft?


  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:27AM (#2446498) Homepage
    Since c|net started this on Oct. 17th, the 2nd installment is available also.

    You can read it here: l []

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:35AM (#2446556)
    Renting whatever is always a lose-win situation for the customer and the renter, respectively, particularly in the long run (more than 3-5 years)

    • Apartment renting: Typically, if you frequently move large distances, renting is ok, but if you are fixed at a certain location in the country, you can usually get house payments + utilities + properties taxes well under the monthly rent for property in the same area. In addition, you lose the ability to play with equity on your home, which can be a valuable source of funding for emergancies
    • Car Leasing: Again, a loser for the rentee: while the monthly lease payments might be lower than for a new car, you have more liability for your car if it's in an accident, and typically more for insurance in some areas. And again, you lose the money that you can get from a reselling of the car in the future.
    • Software renting: Particularly in the case of Microsoft, you must continue to rent the software in order to continue being 'compatiable' with everyone else, so while the cost to rent software might be less than purchasing it on a 2-3 year time scale, you must consider the 5-10 year time scale for mission critical software in order to keep up.
    The overall problem with renting software is that renting is just one step away from pay-per-play, which Microsoft has subtly indicated that they wouldn't mind that, and in the opposite direction of the principle of first sale. Just like we are discussing how slowly eroding civil librities is more likely to be accepted by citizens than a swift removal of them, removing the buyer's rights from software by going to seat-licenses, then renting, then pay-per-use will be more of an accepted transition if it is done slowly.

    In addition, while I am a linux user, I want my games, and I want them at the same time as most of the rest of the world enjoys them as opposed to months later. While the catch-22 syndrome of linux games has been discussed before, I don't think that will be resolved until the linux desktop is more fully realized. Thus, until that happens, I will continue to have a Windows box to play games on as well as most of my web browsing with a non-MS browser. However, while for the immediate future, I expect Win98 to be sufficient, with all modern hardware and games continue to provide support for it, once MS decides that the latest version of DirectX will only run under XP or higher, I will need to consider upgrading (I'm considering it right now, given the know improvements in stability between XP and 98). I know XP will remain a single-cost purchase, but what happens when the next step comes along? I would suspect that most causal computer users are in the same boat as me in their feelings to software renting vs purchasing.

  • Oi! What about Macs? We have 5% of market share, very user-friendly, and with Mac OS X, there's even a significant amount of cross-platform compatibility--file-sharing through Samba, running files under Virtual PC, which works wonderfully, sometimes even faster than on a real PC. I, personally, am waiting with bated breath for the day StarOffice/OpenOffice becomes properly functional under MacOS, so I can get rid of my copy of Office 98 (probably under an illegal license, since I haven't upgraded to XP). Then I will be totally Microsoft-free--and I intend to remain so. Never forget that there is already something user-friendly to fall back on. I really, really like Linux, but I am so fed up with Linux users dismissing MacOS as a toy or not even counting it at all, as you seem to be doing. Mac OS X is beautiful (XP's design was ripped off of it) and functional?and it sits on top of BSD, so I can do anything you can do. Thank you very much.

    Dan Aris
  • by AmbientBlue ( 466302 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @10:53AM (#2446671) Homepage
    So I tried using Windows XP a little a few weeks ago.. I quickly went back to, umm, er, '98 after experiencing DNS trouble with my ISP while using it..

    But in the day or two of using it I had an application error spawn a process that sent system information INCLUDING personal information like REGISTRATION and whatever NAME you had in the appropriate field. I didnt even have a choice! Well -- you have a choice if you are at the machine when the error occurs. After a minute or so it sends it anyway.

    It would be cool if I got a call from a tech support expert with an automatically open trouble ticket, but no.. That isnt what its for.. Its for taking personal information, matching it with your network location, and using it to whatever purpose they desire.

    Pretty F***ing sneaky.
  • by xmedar ( 55856 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @12:56PM (#2447312)
    From this bit -

    Mission: Domination of the Internet []

    In the second through sixth attempts to connect to the Net, Windows XP will implore consumers to sign up for something called Passport--an identification technology that, in many ways, is a key to Microsoft's future.

    Maybe that shows how reluctant people will be to sign up as is not compelling enough for them to sign up at the 1st opportunity.

    If Microsoft is successful, Windows XP will eventually resemble an online service like America Online, which runs on top of Windows and other operating systems. That would allow consumers to bypass AOL and other rivals altogether, essentially turning Windows into a one-stop destination that combines AOL-like services with easy access to Microsoft desktop products such as Word and Excel.

    I can't ever see M$ ever running anything on a platform other than Windows. As for combining with AOL like services, well AOL has been doing that for many many years, M$ is far behind in the game, and remember AOL has ~30million users against a total Net population of >600million, having a 5% global market share is not what I would call stunning.

    Through HailStorm, recently renamed .Net My Services, Microsoft envisions offering consumers and businesses a consistent set of information and services to any devices, whether they be personal computers, handheld devices or cellular phones--often at a cost to the receiver, the provider or both.

    Anyone remember "Windows everywhere"? Or the cliams that COM would be running on a large number of platorms? They failed and this will too, as I said above M$ will only do this on Windows, it might licence someone to do a half asses port like with COM and use that to claim cross platform capability.

    Many people would welcome the convenience of a reasonably secure mechanism that would instantly find whomever and whatever they were looking for online while allowing them to use various sites and services with a single password entered only once.

    Oh yes, I and millions of others really want to hand over my credit card and other details to a reasonably secure system, just like I want to be running ISS and get hit with CR or Nimda. Of course Passport will store more than just CC details so expect there to be cases of identity theft, can you imagine tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people having to cope with having their identities stolen and used in fraudulent activities? How much might this cost the economies of the world? More than the WTC bombing? Ten times more?

    In an interview with CNET this summer, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates adamantly defended his company's right to evolve Windows with new features to meet market demand. "Our customers do want us to make Windows richer and more reliable," he said. "So Microsoft's commitment is to add features that customers want. If we can't add any features, then what is Windows?"

    Gates questioned why AOL has not received as much criticism as Microsoft for bundling products and services. "Has AOL ever added any new features to their products?" he asked rhetorically. "They have dominant market share of all their stuff. They actually added features? Unbelievable! Who are these people adding features? What's going on here? Well, what's going on is that the PC industry is the most competitive industry that has ever been in terms of software availability and advances."

    As above, AOL only has a small proportion of all Net users ~5% whereas Windows runs on ~90% of all computers, nice straw man there Bill.

    Other Windows XP testers complained that the operating system's graphical appearance, which resembles that of MSN Explorer, looked like a cartoon.

    Elmer FUD or Mr. Magoo?

    Yet this kind of apparent contradiction is nothing new to Microsoft, which has long operated on the Darwinian assumption that the fittest of products will survive--as long as they are part of the Windows family.

    Dinosaur fails to predict meteor strike / extinction, News at 11.

    "It reminds me of the old story about how to boil a frog," he said. "If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of warm water and slowly raise the temperature until the water boils, you have frog soup.

    "Consumers aren't going to be thrown into a kettle of boiling water from the get-go, but rather enticed into an inviting, lukewarm bath, and then the temperature will be slowly raised over several release cycles."

    I doubt the same tactic will work with Penguins though.
  • Oh yes, I and millions of others really want to hand over my credit card and other details to a reasonably secure system, just like I want to be running ISS and get hit with CR or Nimda. Of course Passport will store more than just CC details so expect there to be cases of identity theft, can you imagine tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people having to cope with having their identities stolen and used in fraudulent activities? How much might this cost the economies of the world? More than the WTC bombing? Ten times more?

    A system like Passport is only as secure as:
    1: the users (can they be tricked into giving up their credentials?)
    2: The users' computers (Can the cookies be stolen?)

    But with that already in place, the fact that all the information is IN ONE PLACE means that the incentive to attack and breech it is greater than it ever has been in the past. Dot GNU resolves this problem but does not resolve the above two issues will remain unresolved.
  • by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Thursday October 18, 2001 @02:51PM (#2447947) Homepage Journal
    Yeah - I particularly like Zonealarm for this sort of thing - MSAGENT.EXE is trying to contact the Internet. A Linux firewall is better for most things, particularly logging, IDS and tcpdump but Zonealarm is nice for this sort of gotcha.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner