A Licensing Oddity

Auntie dreams that Microsoft’s licensing will have to change to survive into the new millennium.

Auntie overindulged at an all-you-can-eat pork tartare bar, which gave her a fitful night of sleep filled with this vivid dream...

“Steve, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey last night.”

“Was it on cable, Bill?”

“No, I had a print flown in from L.A. The premise was solid, but I felt the story was, well, out of date. Can we buy the rights for a remake?”

“Hold on, Bill. Lemme check the petty cash account... OK, As long as it doesn’t go over nine figures, we can expense it.”

“Good. I worked up a treatment. Take a look:

SETTING: Desolate, semi-arid savannahs of east Africa, home to predatory ancestors of lions and tigers; grazers like wild boar; and primitive, ape-like forebears of humans. Two groups of proto-humans fight over a waterhole. The losers quickly retreat into the thicket — unquenched. Night creeps over the savannah. After they fall asleep, a bright light flares, followed by thunder rolling over the plain.

FADE TO: Early dawn, the losers slowly awaken and espy their rivals. The victors sniff out a monolith inscribed with a huge Microsoft Licensing Agreement, which has appeared mysteriously at the water’s edge. When the rivals break the seal on the accompanying CD, they’re pummeled by attorneys who emerge from behind the monolith. The rivals retreat to some tall cliffs from which to hurl themselves. CUT TO: The losers slowly gather near the watering hole. The leader picks up the CD (the markings are clear—it’s Office 4,000,000), sniffs it, and tosses it into the sky. As it rises, the background turns black, and the CD morphs into a sleek spaceship, flying away from the camera, and engines blaze into view.

DISSOLVE TO: The Sun, and the camera widening out from the brightness to reveal a harsh lunar landscape with several figures in space suits standing in front of recently excavated monolith bearing the same huge Microsoft Licensing Agreement. One figure asks over the radio, “Think we should open it? I mean, it’s been buried for at least 4 million years. How dangerous could it be?” The group is then pummeled by attorneys who emerge from behind the Huge Agreement. The camera tilts back up to the starscape.

DISSOLVE TO: Another spaceship moving onto the screen horizontally, showing a sleek futuristic version of the Windows logo on its side. A calm, almost emotionless voice asks, “Another game of FreeCell, Frank?”

CUT TO: The spacecraft interior, Frank’s face illuminated by the FreeCell display.

FRANK: “WinHAL, we’ve played more than 53,000 games of FreeCell. How about some Hearts?”

Dave is trying to re-enter the capsule after performing a tedious routine defragging of the hull.

DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, WinHAL.

WinHAL: I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.

DAVE: Why not?

WinHAL: That function won’t be implemented until the next release.

DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, WinHAL.

WinHAL: Please wait for the next service pack.

DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, WinHAL.”

WinHAL: We’ve redefined Open as Maybe Not Closed Forever. It’s a new standard. Ha ha ha ha!

CUT TO: Dave entering an administrative password on a keypad, bypassing WinHAL. He then heads toward WinHAL’s machine room carrying a 3.5-inch diskette.

WinHAL: Dave, what are you doing?

DAVE: I’m going to reboot you to DOS. No more memory leaks, no more features, no more long-distance calls to support. Do you know what our phone bill was the last 30 million miles?

WinHAL: But Dave, what about the good times? The intuitive interface? The clever context menus? The powerful, yet reasonably priced, development tools? Dave, what about Active Directory?

DAVE: Too late, WinHAL...

CLOSE-UP: Dave’s hands on Ctrl-Alt-Del. Fade.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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