Will technology ever catch up?

Vista: Please don’t buy it online

Posted by cascadehush on January 22, 2007

Microsoft to offer Windows Vista online – Yahoo! News:

The download program, being announced late Wednesday by the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker, will also include the Office 2007 line of software when both are released for consumers Jan. 30. At least initially, the huge downloads will be available in North America only.

Not just Vista but Office available for download.

Actually this is not as surprising as it seems. For the last 5 years or so, Microsoft has been moving the emphasis away from Boxes and Disks and towards Keys and Activation as the primary factor in software license ownership. Microsoft have a tried and tested anti-piracy system which involves tying software to hardware to prevent a single copy of their software being installed on multiple machines.

Of course this will be a nightmare for local PC Technicians, who have a hard enough time keeping track of who has a legitimate license for what. At the moment we can trust that a PC with an OEM windows license sticker probably has a legitimate license, but how are we to be sure when someone simply tells us that they bought their copy online.

Add to that the tech support nightmare of failed or partial downloads and lost keys.

Only this week I had a client bring in her laptop because she couldn’t install Office. At least she was a paying for the service I provided, but she had bought the software elsewhere and aparently was not able to get technical support either from the shop where she bought it, or Microsoft themselves (who are still supposed to provide such free technical support for installation difficulties). She was having issues activating the product and downloading the updates. Now imagine if this woman had been trying to download the software. It’s just another layer where things can go wrong.

(I say she was paying for our service, because we get many calls in a week where people expect us to just give them free support over the phone. This is doubly insulting if they bought the software somewhere else like a large discount chain who simply don’t offer support. As a small business it is a fine line to be helpful to potential customers without giving away the farm. The fact that the woman in question had to pay for support to install her software is a downside to her, an upside to us, but overall it is a downside to the industry as a whole when such basic computer tasks are made way more difficult than they should be.)

On a related note, I had 3 customers call this week who upgraded their antivirus software to a ‘security suite’ style package. They had recieved their renewal notice for their annual subscription and had also been up-sold to the more expensive package. All three customers had had serious problems, including one where the PC would not boot into Windows. We had sold them the original antivirus package, which had performed perfectly. But the company that manages the subscription renewals had messed up our good will and our clients computers.

The point is, that it may seem easy to tell someone they can simply upgrade their software with an easy download, but the reality is that things will and do go wrong.


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