When everything is software, you don’t really own anything

For many years I had a wonderful computer that used the Microsoft 98 OS.  Then they stopped supporting it—and I was forced to buy a new computer.  Now if you own a well working iPhone, you will find out that in a few years they will stop supporting it—and you will need a new phone.  I own a 2009 Prius, with 262,000 miles on it.  I hope they do not stop supporting it—but as this article says, car companies by making more of its operating systems to use computer, your car wil become obsolete.

We need to tell the companies to stop forcing us to buy new products, when the old ones fit our needs.

“All the car companies are doing it — not just the ones you might think, such as Tesla. Honda recently announced it was “shifting focus from non-recurring hardware (product) sales” to “recurring business in which Honda continues to offer various services and value to its customers after the sale through Honda products that combine hardware and software.”

In other words, car companies are no longer satisfied selling you a car once, with which you are free to do as you please. Now they want to lock you into a never-ending stream of updates and upgrades, all of which come at a hefty price.”

When everything is software, you don’t really own anything

by Conn Carroll, Washington Examiner,  5/2/22 

The MacBook Air I bought in 2014 looks like it is in tip-top condition. It turns on quickly and easily. It runs Safari, Chrome, and Firefox just fine. But if you want to use Microsoft Word or Teams, you simply can’t.

It’s not that Microsoft products don’t work on MacBooks — I used Microsoft Word on my MacBook for years. The problem is that, even though I am all paid up with Microsoft to download and use the latest version of their products, the Microsoft software updates for these programs are incompatible with the operating system on my computer.

Apple has chosen to stop providing updates for all 2014 MacBooks. This means, slowly but surely, as more and more other apps get updated, fewer and fewer programs will work on my computer, even though it otherwise works just as well as the day I bought it.

We see this with cellphones too. If you owned an iPhone 5 and took perfect care of it, it would be a useless brick now because Apple stopped updating the software for it back in 2017.

If this planned obsolescence were confined to phones and laptops, that would be one thing. But the more automakers stuff computers into your car, the danger arises that your car will become useless well before its parts start breaking down.

We can already see this in the farmers’ fight for the right to repair the tractors they thought they had bought from John Deere. It turns out that when you buy a tractor from John Deere today, you are also committing to having all repairs done by John Deere. That can be a problem for rural farmers, many of whom must drive two hours to the closest dealership when their tractor stops working. Some farmers have even begun using code from Eastern European websites to hack their own tractors to make repairs. And John Deere isn’t happy.

But John Deere is not the only corporation looking to change what was once a one-time purchase into a subscription service. All the car companies are doing it — not just the ones you might think, such as Tesla. Honda recently announced it was “shifting focus from non-recurring hardware (product) sales” to “recurring business in which Honda continues to offer various services and value to its customers after the sale through Honda products that combine hardware and software.”

In other words, car companies are no longer satisfied selling you a car once, with which you are free to do as you please. Now they want to lock you into a never-ending stream of updates and upgrades, all of which come at a hefty price.

Not only does this concentrate power and wealth in a few car companies, but it kills independent car parts and repair businesses, and it makes it impossible for people to tinker with and modify the vehicles they own.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Patent and copyright laws are government-created monopolies. If we don’t want to live in a world where everything we supposedly own quickly turns into a useless brick, we are going to need to change these laws.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. My computer is a 2004 Dell; you need to learn and understand how to use Linux.

  2. They hurt a lot of people by doing this.. It’s ALL about making more and more money and forcing people to buy a newer one so they make more money, but many people who buy their product can’t afford to change computers or iphones all the time… Same with Cars… Low income people can’t afford to keep up with all the new stuff that comes out, so they try to make what they have last as long as they can… I also don’t have a desire to have a large sized iphone that I can’t put in my pocket… I want one that fits comfortably in my hand.. I don’t like using the internet on the phone… I use my computer for that… I have used the phone when it is an emergency and the computer is down.. Would be nice if these companies cared about the low income people who use their product… they can’t afford to constantly upgrade…

  3. FOSS FTW says

    Open Source anyone?

    Richard Stallman, an actual real life communist, created the GNU Public License in order to prevent this exact problem. RMS is wrong on many things, but absolutely 100% correct on software.

    The solution to the author’s posed issue, is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

    Stop using Proprietary Software. BTW, MacOS is about 60% FOSS. Using MacOS is like using Free Software with wood glued on to make it pretty.

  4. Yes, it is a cynical ploy and might even be successfully challenged in court.

    But think about this- it is very costly to have to support multiple old versions of hardware/software and companies really have no obligation to do so. But when they obsolete something deliberately, like Apple did to slow down old phones- that might be litigation territory.

    But the worst quick obsolescence is news publications- their content quickly becomes passe and you have to see today’s paper :-).

    This was typed on my old laptop running Windows 7, an endangered species. Last week I bought a backup laptop on sale, with an I7 processor, 16 GB of memory, advanced graphics card, touchscreen, Windows 11, just in case the old one dies or is rendered unusable.

  5. Companies are in business to make money, regardless of how much balderdash they spew regarding social responsibility. Companies can make a lot more money switching to subscription of product or maintenance than selling anything outright. They can get away with such strategy because most dominate the market — thanks to cheap money that allows them to buy out competitors.

  6. Congress is authorized to grant patents and copyrights “for limited times.” This new paradigm of endless renewals is unconstitutional and must be stopped.

    As for computers, I am still using Windows 7 on mine. But I will soon be transitioning to Linux, which is open source. Meanwhile, there are two free alternatives to MS Office — LibreOffice (included with most Linux versions) and Kingsoft WPS. I use both.

  7. This is what Linux is for. If you want to fight all that built-in intentional obsolescence, and want to avoid the rental model, then go aggressive for Open Source. And Open Technology.

    The justification for copyright and patents in the U.S. Constitution was to encourage invention and creativity by granting the inventor or writer to have exclusive rights to royalties for the use of it

    But the reality today is. that it has become very big corporations who get the royalties and the residuals. Besides the best and most universally useful advances are not “protected”. Operating system Linux, which drives most Internet v infrastructure. The most widely used family of programming languages like PMP, Python, Ruby, lots more. The protocols and software of the World Wide Web, too.
    .

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