It looks as though Microsoft will require the installation of their new operating system, Vista (née Longhorn), in order to run the PC version of their hit video game, Halo II. Vista has already been delayed several times and is now scheduled for release in December 2006. No independent software maker would have written the game for an OS that doesn’t yet exist. Instead, Microsoft seems to be using their application software to drive sales of their operating system software. Don’t be surprised if you see the next MS Office release “optimized” for Vista, or backward compatibility problems between Vista and older versions of Office.
This also may help explain why Microsoft released part of its Windows source code to the EU in connection with a monopoly investigation. Call me paranoid, but I suspect that parts of that source code will become obsolete.
We saw similar issues with the Sony DRM/spyware/rootkit problems. Sony is both a content provider (music and movies, CDs and DVDs) and a hardware manufacturer. One of their hardware lines is the Sony Minidisk system. The proprietary encoding software that comes with the player includes a system for counting how many times a song has been “checked out” from your hard disk to a minidisk, with the maximum set at three (net of the times it has been “checked in” and removed from a minidisk). The original version of the software and player did not allow for MP3s; the current version will play them, but cripples some of the functions available on other players.
Sony’s spyware ploy was based on the realization that the market had left their minidisk player behind, so their preferred method of controlling the spread of copied content had failed. The minidisk hardware and software were both proprietary and not adopted by other companies, with the exception of some third-party minidisk manufacturing. They were in effect trying their Betamax strategy again, and it didn’t work this time, either. Earlier attempts to restrict copying had been evaded by disabling the copy-protect function resident on the disk. Sony’s solution was to alter the user’s application software to mimic the behavior of the minidisk player. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.