TurboTax Copy Protection

So, like millions of folks I bought a copy of TurboTax this year, and now there’s this NT system service (CDAC11BA) doing something to my computer all the time — whether I’m running TurboTax or not — and I don’t know what else has been done to my system. I was going to move my WinXP box’s boot drive to another hard disk a few weeks ago, and it’s a good thing I didn’t, because the copy protection software in TurboTax scribbles to undocumented locations on the disk, and moving the disk would have caused TT to fail.

This is just unacceptable. It’s so idiotic that I don’t know where to begin to express how stupid and incompetent it is. And if Intuit’s products are doing this next year, I’m not going to buy them.

Like millions of other folks, I imagine.

Someone on the Politech list pointed out that in the 1980s MicroPro added copy protection to their flagship product WordStar, and that was the apex of their rising star. People began to switch to the fairly new Word Perfect, and MicroPro was history. Don’t think this same thing can’t happen to a large company like Intuit. That’s what competitors are for; they reach out and begin eating pieces of your lunch the moment you show a weakness.

Intuit execs can soft-pedal the behavior of TurboTax all they want, but the fact remains that the copy protection is intrusive and is doing undeniably dangerous and fragile things to millions of PCs. It’s not the kind of thing you expect a piece of financial software to be doing to your system.

I think that Intuit is now screwed. If they remove the copy protection next year many, many people will pirate the product. If the protection is still there, sales will be down dramatically. Either way, Intuit loses — the course has already been set. Intuit made the choice to trade many years of customer good-will for a single season of good sales. My vote for the best seller next year is TaxCut.

The bottom line when it comes to copy protection: Customers are smart and they know when they are being shafted, and execs would do well to remember this.

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