Putting PCs on hold over piracy
In the past few years, Microsoft has stepped up its efforts to make sure that the people who use Windows have actually paid for it. Now, with Vista, the company plans to take more drastic antipiracy measures.
People who install Vista on a PC themselves will have 30 days to complete the process of assuring Microsoft that they have a legitimate license to use the product. If they ignore warning messages during that period, then they will be prompted to activate the operating system online or by phone or to enter a product key. If they don't choose to do these, then . This lets people use a Web browser for an hour, after which time the system logs them out.
The new technology is part of Microsoft's "Software Protection Platform," which will be included in all future products. It's a notch higher than the Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy tool introduced in XP in July 2005, which before they could download add-on applications.
To find out what people on the street make of it, we asked our Vista Views panel, made up of ordinary readers, this question: Is Microsoft going too far in locking people out of their PCs to counter use of pirated software?
No, that's their right. If you want to use commercial software, you have to pay for it. But it won't make a big difference--I don't know of a single unactivated Windows XP installation.
A bigger issue is the decision that even volume licenses require activation. I bet that means headaches for Vista-deploying administrators. Especially when the activation/WGA servers fail again.
Simon Felix works in theoretical computer science, application programming and low-level hardware coding for a small engineering office in Switzerland, where he is writing his diploma thesis. He was a bronze medal winner at the International Olympiad in Informatics 2003 and has developed his own operating system.
Ultimately, we all pay the price for piracy in the cost of software
we buy. The number of innocent victims who buy white box machines from the small number of unscrupulous small system builders is tiny. The
typical end-user will get a legit system. The remedy for a pirated
copy is to buy a legit copy or obtain one from the vendor that sold
the system. The lockout CAN be fixed.
Barb Bowman is a product development manager for Comcast high-speed Internet who also writes about technology for the Microsoft Windows XP Expert Zone and the Microsoft Vista community.
Microsoft is going way too far with all of their "antipiracy" efforts. They currently have a larger than 40 percent error rate with their WGA (Windows Genuine (dis)Advantage) program, and I seriously doubt this program will work any better. No DRM system works for very long (something Microsoft should have already learned playing "hit the mole" with the FairUse4WM hacks of their Windows Media DRM). The true "pirates" will be able to crack any DRM system Microsoft could put in place, so all this technology will do is make the entire operating system less useful (and hence less valuable) for "legitimate" users.
At the same time, and what I think is even more important, Microsoft is forgetting that they don't own the computer their operating system resides on. The new "antipiracy" technology in Vista, as well as the WGA "patch" they're trying to foist off on customers, is nothing more or less than spyware! I bought my computer; it belongs to me, not to Microsoft. There is no way I'm going to have MY computer reporting back to Microsoft on a regular basis as if I were a criminal reporting to my parole officer! What honest person wants to be insulted that way? And how long will honest people put up with a company that does treat them that way?
Microsoft is continuing to make Vista less and less attractive as an upgrade option, and they certainly aren't providing any reason to stop using XP.
Mark Casazza is the director of academic information for the City University of New York.
Wait a second. This feature is already in Windows XP. At least Vista will let you browse for an hour...XP locks you out entirely. Seems like the only people this would affect are...pirates. As long as Microsoft improves the accuracy of the checking (I haven't seen any issues on the prerelease builds), I don't have a problem with it.
Once again, the media is making a far bigger deal of this than necessary. I wish people would focus on the thousands of other things that have been changed/improved in Vista, versus trying to make up things that might be controversial.
Robert McLaws is an IT consultant, community leader and Vista enthusiast. He has been running Vista enthusiast site Longhornblogs.com since 2002.
Microsoft's antipiracy tactics may seem a bit too far, but they have the right to do whatever they want with their software, and if people keep buying it knowing these conditions are attached to it, then nobody should be complaining. Most people will need to buy a new PC to run Vista anyway, and that will come preactivated, so buyers of new PCs won't notice this antipiracy technique one bit.
While stopping piracy may help Microsoft financially in the short term,
is it really helping them in the long term? First of all, the cost of
product activation and antipiracy measures needs to be weighed against the potential financial loss due to piracy. Second, and more importantly, Microsoft has to consider what indirect value piracy might actually have in spreading Windows to more people.
Start cutting off software piracy, and most people in Third World
countries will either find a way to pirate copies of Vista anyway, or just switch to free alternatives like Linux. So Microsoft's antipiracy tactics could have an indirect effect in driving more people to Linux and in the long run, hurt Windows' future, especially overseas.
Wallace Wang is a freelance computer journalist and author whose books include "Microsoft Office for Dummies" and "Steal This Computer Book."
Absolutely not. Microsoft spends billions of dollars in R&D each year and has thousands of employees all around the world making, supporting and selling these products. Just because software is not something you can see and touch doesn't mean you shouldn't have to pay for it. They are actually being nice by allowing you to run in reduced mode for 30 days, as they could lock you out immediately for running stolen software. Jason Cornell has more than seven years of consulting experience, primarily in Microsoft software. He has worked on design and integration of Windows-based set-ups for health care, higher education and media customers.
I'd love to say that Microsoft has every right to stop people from
pirating their software and that removing functionality from pirated
copies of Vista is a good idea. I'd love to say that, but in the real
world things are never quite that simple.
My guess is that more than likely some problem will crop up, like valid versions of Vista disabling themselves in certain situations, or some very simple workaround being discovered to circumvent the antipiracy features, or just a lot of fear and complaining about what could go wrong, and Microsoft will quietly drop the whole idea.
Perry Reed works by day in software QA, and in his spare time, he hosts The Tablet PC Show podcast.
If you don't like what Microsoft does to your illegal version of Windows, then use Linux.
Brian Clarke, a student at Shippensburg University, says he has reinstalled Windows more times than he cares to remember.
Software is one of the most valuable technologies of the Information Age, running everything from PCs to the Internet. Yet, because software has become such an important productivity tool, the illegal copying and distribution of it persists globally. In fact, in the United States, one in four software programs is unlicensed. I think this is a "step-forward" for Microsoft in its efforts to take on piracy.
Although some would probably think that Microsoft is going overboard with this one, I honestly believe that this will only help further prevention of piracy in the technology world. Considering Microsoft and some "higher-priced" software are globally pirated, it is only right that Microsoft takes on a new plan for preventing piracy.
If Microsoft wants to protect its investment with Windows Vista, then truthfully, this is the only way, and in my mind, it's a good way to start.
Bill Johnson is a Minnesota-based computer technician and journalist who also runs a Microsoft Windows-related community called AplusDownloads.
As much as I'd like to think that pretty much everything Microsoft has done as of late is a colossal screw-up (and between Origami, SoapBox, Zune, and Vista in general, there is certainly no shortage of MS screwing up to reinforce my sentiment), I'm afraid I'm in complete agreement with them on doing whatever is necessary to prevent people from stealing the products they spent billions to make. No postindustrial economy is going to work, if we fail to see that digital theft is just as unacceptable for society as its analog counterpart.
John Kneeland is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is majoring in international relations and East Asian studies.
While I think this may be within reason for Microsoft to do, I don't agree with it. Just like the WGA that is in XP now, "normal" customers will be the ones affected and the "pirates" will find their own workarounds to it.
I have known several people that had been locked out of computer updates due to getting their copy of Windows XP from a site that was giving out copied XP Keys but original CDs so the customers didn't know it was pirated. They are innocent bystanders that are having enough issues with Windows not working correctly, and now they have to deal with this as well?
I think while Microsoft COULD do it, and if this was a perfect world, it would work with no flaws, this isn't a perfect world and this is going to cause more problems than it solves.
Kevin Faaborg works in basic hardware and software guidance for a large financial corporation, but he has experience in more computer sales-based jobs.
It is a tough problem, no doubt. Microsoft had to do something about the piracy. Unfortunately, the best that they could come up with burdens the very companies that were legitimate to begin with.
Josh Phillips is an IT professional based in California.
Keith D. Vogt
Microsoft should have done this years ago. If I develop a product and someone steals it from me, why wouldn't I want to figure out a way to keep a thief from stealing it from me?
More software developers should do the same.
Keith D. Vogt has been using computers since the late '80s and lives in California.
I think its just fine that they are doing this. This hopefully will curb pirated copies, although I would imagine someone will find a way to get around it.
Wayne Sharpe is based in Ontario, Canada.
I'm not sure this is legal.
Unless MS sells the operating system with a prominent notice on the outside of the box and in every ad that says "Fully Functional For 30 Days" they may run afoul of warranty laws.
I believe I would have the right to return the product (OS and/or
computer) as not fulfilling its advertised functions and demand a
full refund. I could do this every 30 days.
Also, MS may run afoul of other laws (product tampering, etc.) if
they disable a third-party Web browser.
I think the group-think at MS has lost touch with
customer-expectation reality on this one.
David Price is a senior accident analyst at one of the U.S.'s top research and development national laboratories and an award-winning nature photographer.
I believe Microsoft is a business just like any other, albeit larger and more successful, and is entitled to the rights and privacy of their products and services. I don't like the fact the Microsoft has decided to make things potentially more difficult for the end-user, but that is their choice. I also feel that if they made their products more affordable for individual consumers that there would be less software
Joe Rud is a computer industry professional from from St. Louis Park, Minn.
This move could be a great move, if implemented properly--meaning that genuine customers get advantages, whilst pirates suffer. If, however, the general user finds that for some odd reason their PC won't activate and they get locked out, causing them to have to phone Microsoft, it's only going to make it worse. There needs to be an easy channel for purchasing a legal activation key, if yours is found to be invalid. Barty Lambert is a high-school student who lives in London.
No, Microsoft isn't going too far. They're well within their rights to do it, and I strongly feel that they are doing it in a way that is fair and is well-implemented. I only wish other features of their OS would be so predictable.
Seriously though, I haven't yet heard a credible story about how this has locked out a person who has purchased their own copy of Windows.
David Dawson is the team leader for research and development at Community IT Innovators (CITI), an organization providing technology support to socially responsible organizations in the Washington, DC area.
Considering the issues Microsoft has had with XP's WGA software deeming legitimate copies as pirated, I think locking users out is going a little too far, especially for the ones that are buying computers now with the intention of upgrading to Vista when it comes out. This issue will show itself as a threat mostly to businesses.
"It has nothing to do with license counting right now, but companies will need to expend time and effort and some money to administer this, in the name of helping Microsoft recoup revenue lost to piracy," says Michael Silver. I read this and my first thought was 'so, Microsoft expects its business consumers to spend more of their money so Microsoft doesn't have to lose as much money to piracy.' Where's the logic in this? Have Microsoft's execs lost all their business sense? Or have they
just become so money-hungry that they're willing to destroy their own business and consumer base to make a couple extra bucks?
Shauna Gordon is pursuing university studies in computer information systems in Columbus, Ohio.