Microsoft Tries to Patent a Crippled Baseline OS

by Nicholas Petreley

Microsoft is applying for a patent for an operating system that starts out crippled. You must pay to do things like take the throttle off network speed, disk access, install drivers, install software, and more. Trust me, I rarely even visit Groklaw, even if this is my second consecutive blog entry with a link to a Groklaw article. My readers posted the article, A Brave New Modular World, and I had to share it.

As the article states, the fact that Microsoft is attempting to patent a cripple technique isn't the real story. It is more likely Microsoft is applying for this patent in order to float the idea and see what kind of reaction it gets. Regardless, if Vista is any indicator, it seems very realistic that the next version of Windows will implement something like this. Vista already shifts into throttled cripple mode if it detects what it believes is pirated video. The idea behind this patent is that the next Windows could start in cripple mode, and the only way to get it to perform normally is to pay Microsoft to unlock "features" that most right-thinking people assume the operating system should provide by default.

The article paints a scenario where this could actually discourage people from switching to Linux from Windows. After all, Dr. Stupid opines, if you pay for a 3 year subscription to unlock the throttling and get access to updates, you'd want to get your money's worth and stick with Windows for 3 years.

Here's a question for you: Assuming Microsoft follows through with this plan or something like it, do you think this would really lock people in? Or would it drive people to Linux (or just about anything else besides Windows)?

(Disclaimer: is totally non-profit, and I have no association with Groklaw, so the links are not obfuscated plugs.)