Friday, September 22, 2006


Microsoft clearly demonstrated the benefits of competition to the consumer last week.

Yesterday, they announced this (thanks Gamespot):
Microsoft has now apparently admitted that the initial shipments of Xbox 360s were failing at a greater than normal rate. "As part of our standard and ongoing process of analyzing repair data, we recently noticed a higher than usual number of [360] units coming in for repair," Microsoft said in a statement sent to GameSpot. "Upon further investigation, it was further discovered that the bulk of the units were isolated to a group that was part of the initial manufacturing run of the console. Returns for repair are coming in for a variety reasons and it's a higher rate than we are satisfied with."

As a result of their findings, Microsoft has "made the decision to comp repairs for consoles manufactured before January 1, [2006] and provide refunds to the small group of customers who have already paid for repairs." As was the case last year, those wishing to get their consoles repaired or replaced should contact Xbox customer support.

Given that Microsoft could have dissembled forever that the actual failure rate was "in line" with other electronic devices, this is a relatively stunning admission.

Consumer-friendly, as it were.

Now let's look at what the same company did earlier this week with the release of Windows Media Player 11. Look at this Orwellian bit of linguistics in the read me:
Windows Media Player 11 does not permit you to back up your media usage rights (previously known as licenses). However, depending upon where your protected files came from, you might be able to restore your rights over the Internet.

Isn't that clever? All we own now is the right to use the media. And if we want to move the music we bought from our PC to our laptop--sorry. Not unless we go back through the original point of purchase and get their authorization. And if they don't exist anymore, or they're assholes, well, tough luck.

That's how Microsoft handles features in their operating system, because they can. For all intents and purposes, it's a monopoly.

You may not realize this if you're an international reader, but consumer rights in the United States are absolute shit. I can't imagine any country having weaker consumer protection laws than we do. And our elected representatives seem to be too busy jamming their pockets with lucre or wrapping themselves in the flag to care.

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