update/upgrade confusion

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 27 20:17:04 UTC 2011

There might be some redefining going on at Microsoft. Normally--or, at
least, as *I* have come to expect it--a software "manufacturer" offers
an "update" for a higher numbered version of the program that
essentially amounts to a bug fix, some fairly minor changes or a new
feature or two. An "upgrade" is usually to a different generation (e.g.,
2.6 to 3.06), a different product (even with a minor name tweak--e.g.,
Norton 2010 to Norton 2011) or a completely different product. With few
exceptions (QuarkXpress), updates are usually free, and, unless the
software is free to begin with or contractually unlimited, upgrades are not.

Microsoft itself makes a distinction--updates are regular extra
downloads that the system can perform automatically to fix bugs, plug
security holes, fix or add features, etc. An "upgrade" is what you get
when you go from "Home" to "Business" version, from Vista to Windows 7,
or from one Office component to the full suite.

At least, this was my understanding of the difference until this
morning. Earlier today, I got an "upgrade" request from Microsoft
Security Essentials, which is a now-free software that' supposed to
compete with Norton, McAfee, etc. It's not very good but it's fairly
compact and free, and is fairly unobtrusive in the background. But why
"upgrade" and not "update"? The version number did not change much
(2.0.X.X). The name is the same as is the product, for all appearances.
So it's a head-scratcher... until you actually try to install it.

On installation, the program demands signing a new TOU agreement--which
is fairly standard, actually (e.g., iTunes always asks for a new license
when installing a new version). But the terms of the agreement are
somewhat different from the earlier version (that was actually supposed
to deliver the same capability, but failed). Basically, the anti-malware
program installs its own spyware and checks for your compliance with
assorted Microsoft licensure. If you're non-compliant (that is, if the
program determines that you have a pirated copy of any Microsoft
software), MSE will disable itself and other assorted features that are
unspecified in the license. It's not quite as nasty as playing vuzuzelas
over "pirtated" content (see Language Log), but it's close.

So is all this update/upgrade confusion just a ruse to get the new TOU
agreement in? Or is Microsoft now redefining "upgrade"? Or am I missing
some other nuance?


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