In the fight against software piracy, Microsoft today introduced an innovative set of technologies that will be included in Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn.” The technologies are aimed at helping prevent piracy and protect customers from software tampering while making licensing easier to manage.
Collectively termed the Microsoft Software Protection Platform, the new technologies will introduce improvements in how Microsoft software activates, is validated online and behaves when tampering or hacking is detected. The upcoming releases of Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” – code name for the next generation of Microsoft’s server software – will be the first two products to ship with the new technologies included, but eventually more Microsoft products will adopt the technologies.
So what does MSPP actually do?
Customers using genuine and licensed copies of Windows Vista will have access to Windows Aero and Windows ReadyBoost features, as well as full functionality of Windows Defender and extra optional updates from Windows Update. Computer systems that do not pass validation will not have access to these features, although they will still have access to critical security updates.
In addition, users of non-genuine Windows Vista software will be notified if their copy of Windows Vista is determined to be non-genuine with the appearance of a persistent statement in the lower right hand corner of their desktop space that reads, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.”
Another important change with Windows Vista has to do with the activation process. As with Windows XP, Windows Vista systems must activate with Microsoft with a genuine product key within 30 days. Failure to do so will result in the system operating in reduced functionality mode until a genuine product key is used to activate and a successful validation occurs.
The details of the “reduced functionality mode” aren’t entirely clear, but apparently you can use Internet Explorer for an hour. (Details are now available – see the update below – ed.)
There are also some changes in copy protection for volume license customers that are termed Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0. Joris Evers at ZDNet provides a terse explanation here, but basically there are a variety of options, all of which require more work by large customers and have already drawn some complaints and those complaints aren’t new.
Update: Ed Bott weighs in on ”reduced functionality:”
Microsoft denies that this is a “kill switch” for Windows Vista, even giving it a separate question and answer in its mock interview announcing the program. Technically, they’re right, I suppose. Switching a PC into a degraded functionality where all you can do is browse the Internet doesn’t kill it; but it’s arguably a near-death experience.
Per the Microsoft white paper that explains all this (MS Word format):
… the default Web browser will be started and the user will be presented with an option to purchase a new product key. There is no start menu, no desktop icons, and the desktop background is changed to black. The Web browser will fully function and Internet connectivity will not be blocked. After one hour, the system will log the user out without warning. It will not shut down the machine, and the user can log back in.