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Microsoft, the manner police

By / June 12, 2008



For those people too rude or forgetful to silence cellphones during a movie, Microsoft wants to shush them for you. It has filed a patent on a new scheme to nanny your gadgets.

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Theaters that don’t want any interruptions could use the system to automatically set phones to vibrate mode. Museums could wirelessly stop cameras from taking pictures of their artwork. Gated communities could digitally prohibit cars from breaking the speed limit.

Microsoft’s patent application suggests that such “device manners policies,” or DMP, will use radio frequencies, like those found in an EZPass or clothing alarm tags, to enforce the rules. A museum, for example, would set up little radio beacons around the building. The signals will alert your devices about what’s OK and what’s a no-no. Compatible devices would then lock down the outlawed functions until you leave the signal area, at which time all your normal features will be restored.

Don’t expect DMP any time soon; this is only a patent filing after all. For the Microsoft system to work, it would require the company to convince both building owners and device-makers that this is something people want. I’m a little dubious that anyone would buy a product that drops functions in certain areas and is only helpful if the other guy uses it too.

And, as TechDirt suggests: “While it's nice to think that technology could somehow block out rude uses of devices, the opportunity for problems and abuse seems quite high. Wouldn't we be better off focusing on social norms to get people to learn when it is and is not appropriate to use certain technologies?”

[Via TechDirt]

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