Washington Post - HELP FILEThis sounds a lot like what SONY did when they covertly installed their unremovable Digital Rights Management spyware. Microsoft sneaks in 'Notifications', you can't remove it, and Microsoft's security firewall, oddly enough, doesn't warn you of its activity.
Q The last round of software updates from Microsoft consisted only of something called "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications." What is that?
A This program tries to verify that you have paid for Windows XP. It normally does this by putting together a profile of your PC's hardware, then checking a Microsoft database to see if your copy of XP hasn't already been used on a different hardware profile.
But recently, the company began installing Notifications automatically via Windows Update. It doesn't just scan your system once; it repeats the test every 90 days. If it cannot validate your copy of XP, it will nag you to buy a license.
Notifications also looks for new instructions from Microsoft every day. The company says these daily checks (which it plans to slow to once every 14 days) let it adjust the program's behavior if problems arise. That raises an alarming point: Notifications is pre-release software, tested without users' consent.
Worse yet, Notifications -- unlike other Microsoft updates -- cannot be uninstalled...
It's so gratifying to see Microsoft return to its roots. All this nonsense about open file formats was a bit puzzling. Microsoft will only open file formats if they can find a way to get even greater control of their customers. They want, and need, to move to leasing software and a completely unbreakable system lockdown. They'll throw in the PC for free, similar to the way cell phones are sold. This is completely consistent with the needs of their primary customers -- corporations.
Apple would do the same thing if they could, but they have a snarly, bitchy user base. The best they can manage is hardware lockdown -- only they make the hardware. They don't use open file formats (heaven forfend!), but their iWork XML formats can be parsed. They'll follow Microsoft, but here they can't lead.
In the long run I think Apple's world is more promising. Hardware lockdown doesn't conflict with small companies writing software that serves end users directly. Microsoft must control all the software, all the time. Apple only needs to obsolete all existing hardware every three years. (Good thing they've instituted a recycling program ...)