Yesterday Microsoft was awarded with a patent to “restrict software and hardware usage on a computer.”
The patent documentation describes a scenario where Microsoft hopes its method will apply: “One problem inherent in open architecture systems is they are generally licensed with complete use rights and/or functionality that may be beyond the need or desire of the system purchaser. Consequentially, the purchase price of these systems being indifferent to usage scenarios means users with limited needs pay the same rate for these systems as those with universal needs.”
Could this be referring to Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade scheme, where the user can upgrade from a lesser version of Windows to an upper tier (such as moving from Windows 7 Starter Edition to Home Premium)? It seems so, as the document goes on to describe: “According to another aspect of the invention, a consumer initially purchases a computer with restricted functionality at a price that is less than the price that would be charged for a computer with full functionality. Subsequently, the user can, at an additional cost, acquire a digital key that allows the restrictions to be removed, upgrading the computer to full functionality.”
That’s just the simple and straightforward part of the patent though, as the more complicated bits come when it begins talking about controlling the types of applications or even hardware that users can run.
“In exchange for payment, a software or hardware vendor will acquire a digital signature(s) for the appropriate program files from the supplier of the program files … so that the next time he or she attempts to execute the application or driver the appropriate signatures will be in the digest catalog and the program files will be loaded.”
Could other software and hardware start employing “anytime upgrade” technologies into their products? The idea of only paying (licensing) for what you’d use sounds economical, but we’re pretty sure enthusiasts won’t like being restricted in any way.
It seems like so many corporations are trying out "tiered" methods now. It's now all about delivering less, and then charging more for "normal."--Ed.