I can’t even count the number of things broken on my Windows machines by installing Windows Media Player or previous IE Service Packs, including disabled DVD drives, crashing loops, and all-out reinstalls of the OS. Now, anyone who uses Windows Update in any normal fashion (or, with Windows ME, is repeatedly pounded over the head to update their system) will lose the ability to use Quicktime and other plugins in IE. Infuriating.
There are two disconcerting effects of this move: first, Microsoft has already decided to leave out Java from Windows XP, so ActiveX will be the only glue for desktop-to-web connectivity, web apps, and other client-side applications where plugins or Java are usually deployed.
Secondly, ActiveX is a notorious security hazard. Like no other browser component, MS has had to release security patch after security patch to plug the holes in ActiveX. Considering the recent damages created by the Code Red virii, which exploited Microsoft’s IIS, and the recent discovery of another security hole in Hotmail, Microsoft’s reputation for security is atrocious.
Sadly, the process by which security problems are fixed — Service Packs and Windows Update — is the same process MS has just used to disable compatability with competing technology, and require the use of a less secure alternative. How does this bode for a .Net future, where MS controls the flow of entire applications, databases of personal information, and the authentication mechanism — Passport — to access them?