Then, on Aug. 29, 2007, Microsoft sent AutoPatcher's authors a cease-and-desist notice demanding an immediate end to AutoPatcher distribution. Intimidated by Microsoft's threat of imminent legal action and lacking financial resources to fight back, the authors complied. AutoPatcher's Web site went dark in a single day.
Microsoft cited security risks of third-party patch distribution as the reason for its precipitous action, despite four years of AutoPatcher operation without a single security incident. An alternative explanation is that Microsoft had decided to limit patch distribution using its Windows Genuine Advantage license verification process, which AutoPatcher unwittingly circumvented.
Microsoft could have done things differently
It's not realistic to expect that any OS maker can avoid incorporating features that already exist in third-party applications, but the approach to doing so need not be as destructive as Microsoft's has sometimes been.
Apple's Mac OS X is a good example. Apple has occasionally stepped on a third-party software developer, but not with the frequency and voracity of Microsoft. Apple is not without its controlling ambitions -- as a hardware vendor, it tightly manages systems and peripherals. But while Microsoft users are free to choose their hardware platform, Microsoft controls many of their other selections because Microsoft has already made those decisions for them. Thus, today individual and corporate users largely opt for IE to avoid Web site compatibility problems, commercial and corporate developers write applications using ASP.Net (the descendant of ASP), developers let Microsoft control their ActiveX controls, and IT admins patch their systems the Microsoft way or no way at all.
The next carcass in the road is anybody's guess, but there are plenty of at-risk products: anti-virus tools, mobile backup, and Web multimedia. But the next time Microsoft approaches a hit-and-run possibility, perhaps it will swerve to avoid another victim on the Windows expressway.
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- Randall C. Kennedy's Enterprise Desktop blog
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This story, "Microsoft's roadkill on the journey to Windows 7," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Windows 7, in Windows in general, and about Microsoft at InfoWorld.com.