Well, its official, there are eight versions of Windows Vista. Those living outside the EU are really very “unlucky” as you only have six versions to play with.
Everyone knows there is a “Digital Divide”, something everyone agrees that we have to eliminate. However, are we sowing the seed for a “Digital Caste System” where users are grated according to what they can afford?
There is a very thin line between “buying only what you need” and “buying what you can afford”. The difference is important, as it is a question of “consumer choice” vs “manufacturer’s greed”.
If one can afford all editions, then choosing which edition you purchase is merely an exercise in “choice”.
However, if some editions are not available to you because you cannot afford it then your rights to choose is going to be limited. If the functionality of the software diminished according to the choice you make and there is no way to regain the functionalities through alternative means, it means you are segregatted according to a Caste System. Like a Caste system, what you can or cannot do is not determined by nature but another person, meaning that person impose his view onto you. Like a social caste system, the worst thing in such a digital caste system is that the worst scenario is not that you only have one edition to chose from, but when you cannot afford any.
Put this in a proprietory software context, it means manufacturers create different versions of software with different capabilities. Some capabilites are denied to you because you cannot pay for it. If you do not want to pay, there is no legal way of gaining the capabilities you need. Worst, the manufacturer is prepared to let you die.
Is there a caste system in Free/Open Source Software? Some argues RedHat, SuSE and other vendors do exercise some form of caste system. But the crucial difference is that if you are willing to put the effort into it, you can create, in most case, a functionally-complete replacement, i.e., replicate the capabilities their software provides even if you do not want to pay them.
Operating system is the bedrock of computers. Creating a digital caste system at this level is a very bad thing. With Windows, Microsoft can afford to eliminate the worst aspect of the digital caste system, i.e., denying access, if it choose to but obviously decided not to.
Back to Window Vista…
As mentioned in a previous post, what a management nightmare! Look at the problem the IT department will be facing:
- [From Joe User] (Before purchasing)
- (If you are lucky) Which version of Vista should I get?
- Why is there so many version of Vista and what is the difference — A big explaination of the difference among the different editions follow the conversation.
- But,… I want this computer from XXX. It only comes with VistaA edition, you say I should get VistaB, can I still but this computer? How about upgradiing later?
- [From Joe User] (After purchasing, IT support headache in italics)
- (even after you advise him to not to get a particular version) Please get my computer to work with the company system… Telling him to get lost is not always an option, e.g., when he is your boss and you value you job.
- Can I do this, or that with this or that software??? Yes, this is a common support question. But start to imagine that the answer to this question depends on the Operating System Edition
- [IT support] Which version of Vista are you using? [User] I don’t know? Here we go again: Go to Start, click ….
- [IT Tech] Manual says PC1 to 1000 does automatic update, PC 1001 to PC 1999 needs manual reboot. PC 2000 to 2999 needs to be updated manually before reboot…. Damn, where is the sticker identifying this computer?
- “Dear Sir/Madam, Thank you for your letter. I am afraid that you have to upgrade to NNN edition as our software depends on function only available in that edition. I am sorry but there is no refund because it is your duty as the purchaser to check that you satisfy the System Requirement. Sincerely, tech support”
Finally, from the article:
“”We don’t want customers to be forced into buying something that isn’t going to meet all their needs,” said Barry Goffe, Microsoft’s director of Windows client product management.”
Mr Goffe, stop pretending that you know my needs for my computer are coz you don’t!