The scene: a gaol, somewhere in the mid-west. With apologies to Jim Dodge.
> I’m standing in a cell, when the cell block door opens and the Sergeant, fat, red and sweating enters dragging a screaming Microsoft user. He hauls him to the end of the line of cells and throws him into it. The Microsoft user’s name is Joe. The Sergeant’s name is Bill.
> Joe screams “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I hear the Sergeant kick him in the stomach. The Sergeant walks out, locking the cell behind him. He leaves the cell block.
> Silence. The other prisoners are quiet too, listening. We can hear Joe sobbing.
> Ten minutes later, Joe takes a huge breath and we hear him scream again “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”. This repeats once every ten minutes or so. “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”.
> After a few hours of this, the cell block door opens. The Sergeant walks in, tapping his blackjack on his thigh. He walks to Joe’s cell, and opens the door. We hear the sudden thud of the blackjack striking Joe’s head, and he hits the floor with a thump.
> “Too much noise. I’ll give you something to block up that mouth of yours, kid” says the Sergeant.
> “On your knees”.
> There’s another thump as he strikes Joe again.
> “That’s right, good. Now you know what to do.”
> We hear a moan and a gag from Joe. Everyone else in the block is silent, as we hear the panting of the Sergeant. Then, with a crescendo, it stops. Joe gags and pukes.
> “You better remember that, kid.”
> The sergeant slowly leaves the block, looking even more florid than before. We hear Joe gag and puke.
That’s what it’s like to be a Linux user right now, seeing all the rest of you being abused by your software vendors.
I see Microsoft, Apple and other users of big corporate manufacturers being slowly imprisoned by their own software. As more and more [DRM](ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DRM) is added to the things we own, the less freedom we have from it.
This post isn’t about the dangers of DRM, or indeed why it’s so harmful. That much is obvious. This is a gaze into the crystal ball to see where this might go.
Microsoft are attempting perhaps the largest land grab in the history of entertainment and communication. What has happened so far with record sales is *nothing* compared to the prize of Internet Television (IPTV). That big box in the corner of your room is not long for this world in it’s current form. Microsoft want everyone to have a Microsoft television, running Microsoft Windows, and taking content mediated and managed by Microsoft.
To become both the monopoly supplier of IPTV and the [monopsony](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopsony) buyer of content from the TV and film companies, Microsoft need to conduct a major land grab right *now* to get their platform and their standards accepted. Selling it to their users is difficult, since there is no benefit to them. Selling it to the film and tv companies is easier, since right now it costs them little and has some significant temptations to them.
This answers the conundrum I posed [the other week](http://adju.st/2006/12/vista_drm.html) — why are Microsoft building such horrendous DRM into Vista? If they can get the content suppliers on side now, they have a real possibility of tying up the platform. But I don’t think they’ll succeed, and in the process they may ruin their business. And the reason they’ll fail is because of Linux.
Vista is going to be a nightmare when it rolls out, but right now Microsoft couldn’t give two hoots. It’s going to be slow unstable crap, because of all this DRM, but right now as far as they are concerned their users have *no choices*.
It would seem in fact as if Microsoft have this all sewn up. If they can provide a viable platform for IPTV that limits users right sufficiently that content producers can maximise their profits, what could stop them? After all, if you want your content, where else are you going to go?
RIght now, the answer would be the various P2P networks. They are cheap and easy, and you can get pretty much anything. These aren’t going to work for Vista users though, oh no. Anything with DRM will be unplayable on Vista, even if you can download it from these sites. So, you have to suck your content from the Microsoft pipe, or nothing.
Apple would be viable competition, but they are going down exactly the same road. They are basically happy with their computer market share, and Microsoft are willing to cede this to them. If Apple lost much more market share, in fact, Microsoft would probably once again fund them, just to make sure they weren’t legally a monopoly. Some weak competition is very valuable to them. I’d be willing to bet that Apple buy into the same DRM strategy as Microsoft, especially if Microsoft find it in their hearts to fund the development.
So, all you Windows users, if you want to play a movie without paying a fee for every view, or a fee for time shifting, or without the 5 minute rant about copyright theft at the beginning, what do you do? You run Linux, that’s what you do. You will shortly have no choice and this, I suspect, is going to be the greatest encouragement to the growth of Linux ever.
I can see some corporates buying this argument too. Vista is going to be buggy as hell, and I reckon it’ll take much longer to become stable than 2000 or XP needed. When corporate networks start failing, this might provide the final urge to a lot of companies to move to Linux on the desktop. The product is very nearly there now, and with a tech support team to roll it out, a Linux corporate desktop is a real option now.
The availability of the Linux desktop *on it’s own* is enough to cripple Microsoft’s strategy. If enough people run a Linux desktop, or soon a Linux TV, it defeats Microsoft’s strategy. As Firefox has shown, you don’t need a major market share to be a disruptive influence. Just 20% of people using non Microsoft/Apple software should be enough to stop the monopoly/monopsony strategy.
And where there is competition their lock-in strategy fails. In ten years when you are still running Windows, and you’ve got your Microsoft-powered TV, but your content isn’t priced per minute, or person watching, or whatever, then be thankful for those Linux users who kept the market open.