The Windows 7 lock-in / lock-out

Everyone knows that Windows 7 has progressed through its various stages and been well-received. It is now in production having been released to manufacturing a few weeks back and will appear in retail channels towards the end of October. Windows 7 is a mixture of new technologies and features, and fixes to parts of Vista that have caused endless trouble to users who adopted version 6.0 of Windows when it was released in January 2007. Here lies the rub. W7 fixes a lot of problems people have been having with Vista, particularly the Business edition on corporate networks. It is smoother and more stable, but Microsoft expects you to pay an additional license fee, rather than releasing additional service packs to Vista to fix all those problems with it. This situation is called lock-in or lock-out, and its previous appearances in Microsoft products led directly to the well-known anti-trust case against the company by the US Department of Justice and similar cases in other jurisdictions such as the European Union and Korea.

In a previous post I referred to the lockout that my site had experienced with ISA Server that has forced us to set up an additional server because of non support of ISA on the Windows Server 2008 platform. The latest example of this approach in the server market is that Windows Server 2008 R2 will not be able to support Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. I think it is very likely that the 2008R2-EX2007 and Windows 7-Vista scenarios in particular are likely to result in further legal action against Microsoft in major jurisdictions, and probably (political) pressure in the US to extend the anti-trust case.

To me, Microsoft is something of an enigma. Sysadmins like me recommend and install Microsoft products because, in the education market at least, they offer the best combination of features, value and support out there. The Linux community at large is yet to get their head around the idea that a GUI, integrated documentation and professional levels of support are worth having. Until we see that kind of commitment from that community I would hesitate to suggest that they have any idea of what is needed by administrators who don’t want to have to learn the nuts and bolts of a new unfamiliar operating system. The comparison between the Linux startup screen with screeds of text gibberish, compared to Windows’ graphical initialisation with occasional progress messages is a case in point. Against this we have the constant monopolistic behaviour resulting in the lock-in/lock-out situations with the results of extra expense to end users. Hmmm…..

I have already made my views known also on what appears to be a diminishing standard of free end user support, where Google searching will usually turn up answers on half a dozen third party or “community” sites before any official Microsoft site.