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June 27, 2006

Microsoft cleans up Windows Genuine Advantage … we hope

Posted by David Hunter at 4:57 PM ET.

The press release is here, but let’s go with Elizabeth Montalbano and Eric Lai at InfoWorldWindows Genuine Advantage program revised following uproar:

Responding to pressure from irked Windows users, Microsoft released an updated version of its antipiracy program on Tuesday that changes the frequency with which the program checks for pirated or counterfeit copies of its client operating system.

A new version of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Notifications program available now no longer checks a server-side configuration of a user’s version of Windows every time the user logs on to see if it is a valid copy of Windows. Instead, it periodically checks to see if the user’s copy is genuine.

“Our customers have told us that they were disappointed with their WGA Notifications experience, and we have made an effort to improve that with this update,” a company representative said in a statement.

Tuesday also marks the end of the pilot phase of WGA Notifications, which means eventually the program will run on all versions of Windows XP worldwide that use Microsoft’s Automatic Updates system. The program is currently in a phased rollout, beginning with all English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian and Dutch versions of Windows XP. Microsoft will soon offer these users the updated WGA Notifications through Automatic Updates.

Swell, but the problem wasn’t the frequency of checking or even the fact that it called home. The problem was that it was buggy beta software in the guise of a critical update. Ed Bott sums it up succinctly in Microsoft presses the Stupid button:

Stupid mistake #1: This update should never have been included with Critical Updates. The Automatic Updates mechanism in Windows XP (and in the upcoming Windows Vista) is supposed to be a delivery vehicle for Critical Updates that fix security flaws in Windows.

Stupid mistake #2: The new WGA tool is wrong too often. If you’re going to punish your users, you had better be 100% right about identifying the offenders.

Stupid mistake #3: The user is left high and dry.

How high and dry? See Ed Foster’s The Last Genuine Copy of Windows XP for some tales of user woe and Bott’s follow-up from today for more plus some speculation that Microsoft is actually making WGA into a “kill switch” for Windows. I don’t excuse piracy and I understand the financial pressures that impels Microsoft to be more aggressive in discouraging it, but this particular effort has been ill-conceived from the start and it’s not clear that what was announced today makes it substantially better. It’s OK to ding the pirates, but not at the expense of paying customers.

Filed under General Business, Genuine Advantage, Legal, Licensing, Microsoft, Piracy, Technologies

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3 Responses to “Microsoft cleans up Windows Genuine Advantage … we hope”

  1. Mrs2lots Says:

    Does this mean that you have to have separate windows for multiple computers in your home????

  2. David Hunter Says:

    In a word, “Yes.”

  3. Microsoft’s antipiracy woes continue -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Microsoft’s effort to wring more money from its Office and Windows cash cows had heretofore handled the antipiracy aspect with rather a deft touch, but Microsoft has dug itself into a hole with the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) campaign and keeps on digging. Ed Bott: Microsoft’s PR agency apparently e-mailed other tech reporters to try to spike the WGA “kill switch” story I reported on last week. Eric Lai of ComputerWorld got the memo and basically reprinted it with no analysis (”Microsoft denies WGA kill switch in Windows XP”). But Lai’s story does include one interesting new detail, a statistic that Microsoft confirmed in a follow-up e-mail to me: [...]

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