informa
/
Commentary

WGA Compulsion Becomes, Er, Compulsory

How's Windows Genuine Advantage working for you? A correspondent of mine says WGA has forced him to reinstall Windows twice on different PCs. I haven't heard of widespread problems like this with WGA, but if there are, now's the time to get them out in the open because Microsoft has just announced that the anti-piracy controls in Windows Vista will make its current WGA efforts look indulgently permissive.
How's Windows Genuine Advantage working for you? A correspondent of mine says WGA has forced him to reinstall Windows twice on different PCs. I haven't heard of widespread problems like this with WGA, but if there are, now's the time to get them out in the open because Microsoft has just announced that the anti-piracy controls in Windows Vista will make its current WGA efforts look indulgently permissive.Windows Vista will include technologies dubbed "Software Protection Platform," the software giant announced Wednesday. The Software Protection Platform will combine existing anti-piracy controls for activating a new copy of Windows and validating an existing installation, and it will add a variety of kill switches that ultimately only let the user run the default browser, and then only for an hour at a time before logging off.

When I wrote about WGA in June ("Opinion: Genuine Advantage To Whom?"), I foresaw problems with false positives, but my primary concern was with the disruption WGA would inevitably cause in the trust relationship between Microsoft and its customers that's vital to spreading security updates through the Windows ecosystem. That view of the problem was mostly focused on the consumer side, like my recent correspondent who complained, "I have had WGA bring my systems down three times (two different systems). Since I ended up reloading the OS twice, I don't want to download any of Microsoft's updates. Has Microsoft figured out how to resolve the WGA problem with clients without having their systems slow down to a crawl?"

(This guy isn't alone. If you want to meet a number of people who are unhappy about WGA, check this thread, which began as a question in CNET's membership newsletter.)

But the Software Protection Platform will affect corporate customers as well as consumers. The open volume keys used by site licensees will become history with Vista, replaced by something called Volume Activation 2.0, which means new headaches for IT departments--managing the activation and validation of each individual copy of Windows in the shop and the individual keys that will require. It will be one more powerful disincentive for companies to upgrade to Vista. I have to agree with CNET poster "scottwilkins," who wrote of Microsoft: "I think they shot both their feet on this one." While Windows Genuine Advantage so far has offered some carrot along with the stick, Vista is apparently going to be all stick all the time.