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08/06/2005 Archived Entry: ""Your new hardware is already broken""

The Inquirer's Charlie Demerjian on Windows Vista breaking your PC -- and your PC manufacturer knowing this:

Won't you be surprised that in a year or so, your slightly less new, but still blazingly fast machine is now a doorstop. You won't be able to legally play content, and there is no realistic upgrade path. There are boxes, adaptors and eSwizzle-sticks(TM) that will make things possibly work, but they will cost more than new hardware, and almost assuredly will have less functionality.

So, where is the dodgy part? Well, they know this now, and are merrily taking your money on knowingly defective hardware.

I'd put off any new PC purchases until after the Vista release. If I were a Windows user, that is.

Update: some second thoughts...

As far as we know at this time, Demerjian's comments apply only to "Media Center" PCs. That is, PCs that you're going to use to play DVDs or music, e.g. as part of your home entertainment system. If you're just using your PC for business, then the new Vista limitations probably won't affect you. (I say "probably" because there's still over a year for Microsoft to spring more surprises on us...Vista's release is tenatively December 2006.)

But you will want to check hardware compatibility. Vista will surely use more RAM, perhaps more than you currently have.

Perhaps more significant: the only reason to put off a PC purchase is if you want to buy all the new Digital Rights Management hardware that will soon be built in. If, like me, you prefer your PCs uncontaminated by DRM -- with its invasiveness, secrecy, and violation of your rights -- then you'd be better advised to buy a PC now rather than later. Because after the Vista debut, the only DRM-free PCs you'll be able to buy will be used PCs. (On the bright side, there may be a glut of Vista-incompatible used PCs dumped on the market.)

If you're going to make the "no DRM" commitment, you'd best start planning now for a transition away from Windows. Windows XP may be the last version you can run, and if Microsoft stays true to form, they'll discontinue support for it in 2008 or thereabouts.

About this time last year, I predicted that there will be two kinds of computer user: the "free" and the "enslaved." Windows Vista is another step along that road. Where do you want to go?


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