A dystopian future - looking beyond Windows Vista

by Sander Marechal

If the thought of Microsoft Vista's DRM restrictions, restrictive EULA, version confusion and user lock-in has you scared then you definitely do not want to know what the lads from Redmond have in store for the next version. If this patent application, covered by Groklaw here, is anything to go by then the next version of Windows, Vista+1 is really going to give you nightmares. Here's the abstract from the patent application:

An operating system and method for use include a core function module, or basic kernel, providing fundamental operating system support and one or more add-on modules that allow customization of the operating system as desired. Add-on modules may provide support or extended capability to the computer including hardware, applications, peripherals, and support. A digital signature may be used to confirm the integrity of an add-on module prior to installation. Certification may be verified to determine if installation of the add-on module is authorized. By withholding certification, a service provider may manage illegal or undesired modifications to a provided computer. Digital rights management may be used to enforce terms of use of the add-on module in keeping with licensing arrangements.

In simpler terms it's a modular OS, much like Linux, whereby every package will have to be bought separately, has been heavily DRM'ed and will be licensed under different licensing terms. And I'm not talking about applications here but about things that people see as core OS functionality, such as basic networking, internet access, running multiple instances of one application, using an USB device (licensed on a per-device basis), etcetera. You'll even have to pay separately just to be able to install third-party applications or to use the new RAM you bought:

5. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the at least one add-on module enables installation of a non-certified application program.


7. The operating system of claim 1, wherein the operating system further comprises a memory activation module, wherein the at least one add-on module cooperates with the memory activation module to permit use of an additional memory.

8. The operating system of claim 7, wherein the operating system requires the additional memory to implement a capability.

You should read the actual patent application for more and scarier examples. It's only a few pages long anyway. It looks like Microsoft wants users to pay separately for every basic OS functionality that they use through some sort of web shop, much the same way that antiquated mainframes used to be licensed out but with the added pixie-dust of “…through the internet”. It will actively throttle down functionality that it is capable of, but which has not been payed for. Or it will “restrict unauthorized operating system extensions from being installed that may support unauthorized hardware and/or software”. So not only do you have to pay for new hardware, you have to pay again in order to use it to it's full capacity. And you can bet that the hardware makers will have to pay Microsoft as well to be included in their web shop.

This is Microsoft ultimate wet dream of lock-in through DRM. It has been their wet dream ever since they came up with Longhorn and Trusted Computing. Longhorn is the monstrosity that spawned Vista after years of delay, various rewites, dropping most of it's features and bolting it to an existing platform (Windows Server 2003) because writing a new platform proved impossible. Matthew Broersma was right when he stated that Windows Vista is the last monolithic OS. Welcome to modular Longhorn.

The message is clear. Get out while you can. Microsoft's only interest is to empty your pockets and keep your computer hostage. It wants to turn computing into a monopoly content distribution channel and sell you to the highest bidder. Choose freedom and switch to Free/Open-source software.

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#1 HellSpawn (http://massdistortion.net/)

With Vista, the reign of Windows begins to fade. With Vista+1, Windows is bye-bye.

I'd switch to Linux if some of the software I currently use would have a "twin" that worked fine on Linux. But I think that won't be a problem in the future.


#2 Anonymous Coward

I was under the impression that the next version of Microsoft's main desktop OS was code-named Viena & Blackcomb
,current release estimate of anytime between 2009 and 2012 . Although, Vista +1 works just as well for making your points and conclusions. Which, by the way, I'm inclined to support.

#3 Cameron

Well, I suspected as much with the future upgrade to Vista. I am a college student training as a Technical Support person. We have been reviewing Vista & I must say I am not one bit impressed with it. It appears to me that Microsoft is trying to corner the software market in that you will have to get it all from them. I create stationery at home for Outlook express so use programs like Paint shop Pro, ColorCop, 20/20, plus many more. Vista has similar to these built in but I prefer MY PROGRAMS, not theirs. I also hear the following OS after vista which will be known as Sierra, will be totally different. It is due out in 2008, and will be total voice. there will be no more start button, side bars, system tray or anything on the desktop as it will be a total voice operated system. Welcome to Star Trek. Not sure if I like that or not.

#4 Sander Marechal (http://www.jejik.com)

Vista's successor is likely called Vienna as comment #2 pointed out. There's news afoot that it'll be released 2009, but knowing MS there will be at least 3-5 years delay.

See PC world

#5 Microsoft - doubt they will fall.

Ok heres my prediction. MS are not totally stupid. If they go the same way as linux kernels and complicate installations they will fail and they know that. Vista in its primary beta form was a good operating system - but then the marketing rapists destroyed it by removing some of the features that would have really differentiated vista from XP and been so much more than just a pretty interface with a nagging DRM. Linuxs downfall is its wide choice of operating systems - if the linux groups unified to make one operating system (server and client) then bye bye windows. MS strategy was allways to create something that non-IT savy AND IT folk could install and use - bring computing to the masses. ALSO a patent application does not mean an intent to build or include it in the next revision. Sometimes its used as strategy to prevent their competitors from using a concept, infact there would be many patents from microsoft that are totally irrelevant to their cause. A patent application from microsoft would cost them virtually nothing.

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