Practical Technology

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Certified for Vista is Certifiably Stupid


Whether you like Microsoft one bit, you have to admit Microsoft is pretty darn bright at some thinygs–Excel, Windows XP SP 2, rolling over its competition–but when it comes to multimedia and DRM (Digital Rights Management), Microsoft is dumber than dumb. An excellent case in point is its transformation of Playsforsure into Certified for Windows Vista.

For several years, Microsoft had a multimedia/DRM campaign calls Playsforsure. Now, those playful boys from Redmond claim that it’s all grown up in to Certified for Windows Vista.

Growing up? How can Playsforsure grow-up? Microsoft killed it last year when it introduced its second rate version of an iPod: Zune. Microsoft, which had been claiming that any device that was Playsforsure could play Microsoft DRM media files, announced that its own lead playback device couldn’t play Playsforsure files. Some business moves are so boneheaded that you can’t make them up. This is one of those.

Microsoft’s plays for sure promise had always been a bogus one anyway. I tried many Playsforsure devices, like Joe Wilcox of Microsoft Watch, and never found a one that could equal iTunes with Apple’s own iPod, iPhone or Apple TV. Say what you will about Apple’s iron-grip over its software and devices, at least they work together.

But, Microsoft has changed that now with its Certified for Windows Vista right? You wish!

It’s a move of such incredible stupidity that I find myself hard-pressed to describe it, so instead I’ll just state the bare facts. Microsoft’s own Zune, both the first and recently released second generation, are not Certified for Windows Vista.

Don’t believe me? Look it up yourself. Take a peak at Microsoft’s own listings of Certified for Windows Vista. You’ll see Samsung and Sony devices, but not a Zune in sight. Now click over to the Zune site. Good luck finding a “Certified for Windows Vista” Zune. They don’t exist.

Is this a brilliant move or what?

Taking a step back, Microsoft uses “Certified for Windows Vista” for everything that, in theory, is certified for Windows Vista. For the most part, of course, that means computers. What does that really have to do with music players and how they can, or can’t, handle different kinds of DRMed files? Darned if I know.

Several companies are trying to compete with the Apple TV with their next generation of Windows-compatible media-extenders. What I want to know is, “What exactly are these devices going to be able to play anyway with Microsoft’s fouled up DRM system?”

I dislike DRM for many reasons, not the least of which is that DRM is easy to turn into a security hole. But, again, at least with Apple’s FairPlay, you know the song you bought years ago from the iTunes store will run on both your first iPod and the latest iPod Touch. With Microsoft’s media files, you really can’t be sure about what will play on what.

It’s enough to make me wonder if Steve Jobs has a mole on Microsoft’s multimedia team. I’m semi-serious. Microsoft’s DRM/media moves were dumb before, but this goes beyond dumb to idiotic.

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