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A kinder, gentler Microsoft?

By deepsand ·
Microsoft Gives Pirates Free XP Or Price Break

By Gregg Keizer, InternetWeek
May 6, 2005 (3:09 PM)
URL: [v] [/v]

Microsoft made changes to its Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program this week, and dangled the carrot of a legit free or reduced-priced copy of Windows to those using a bogus operating system.
Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is an anti-piracy scheme targeting consumer and small business customers that Microsoft debuted to some criticism in September, 2004. It's designed to check that users are running a legitimate copy of Windows XP.

At first, WGA was completely voluntary, and linked with Microsoft's Download Center. Before downloading some files, users were asked to provide their Windows product keys. The Redmond, Wash.-based developer sweetened the deal with some special offers and give-aways.

Since then, Microsoft has stepped up its WGA efforts. For instance, by this summer, it will require users to validate their copy of Windows to download any files from Download Center or use the Windows Update security patch service. (Automatic Update, which Microsoft has been aggressively pushing, will continue to deliver security updates to all.)

The recent changes to WGA, said a Microsoft spokesperson, are intended "to help people who have unwittingly purchased counterfeit copies of Windows XP."

Previously, if the validation process uncovered an illegitimate copy, Microsoft offered no recourse, forcing the user to either do without downloads or pay for a brand new copy of Windows. Now, Microsoft will either give the user a free copy of Windows XP Professional, or sell him a licensing key for $149, the spokesperson confirmed.

But not without some strings.

"Customers should first seek remedy from whomever sold them the product," the spokesperson said. Only then will Microsoft step in.

Users stuck with a counterfeit copy can apply for a free edition, said the spokesperson, but they must provide proof of purchase, send the bogus CD to Redmond, and fill out a piracy report "with details of the transaction."

This is identical to a pilot Microsoft has been running in the U.K.

"But that's a pretty high bar," the spokesperson admitted. So Microsoft has created a less strenuous process that only requires the user to fill out a piracy report. In return, Microsoft scans the XP system remotely to make sure that the code matches the original -- it's possible for counterfeiters to insert Trojan horses or other malicious code into the installation files -- and if it passes the test, provide an electronic licensing key. A CD will also be mailed to the user, along with instructions on how to wipe the counterfeit off the hard drive and install the legit version.

The $149 price is half the $299 that Microsoft typically charges for XP Pro.

"The wipe and re-install is the most secure, but it's also hard for some people," Microsoft's spokesperson said. "That's why we made it possible to handle the entire process online by providing them a license key."

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, applauded the change. "I think Microsoft has really struggled to come up with a fair program," he said. "They've moved very slowly, and in general I'm pretty okay with it."

But he does have some concerns. "It's clear that there's a quid pro quo," he said. "Microsoft is trying to make sure that whoever takes part is going to have to help them catch the counterfeiters."

And for his money, Cherry thinks that Microsoft's closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. "I think too much of WGA is after the fact," he said. "Microsoft should really run advertisements where they actually describe what people should look for when they buy Windows. They need to get out in front of it.

"My father recently went to a store to buy a copy of Windows. But does he really know what to look for? I doubt it."

The piracy report Microsoft requires is available online, and asks users to provide reseller info such as its address and phone number, when the counterfeit Windows was purchased, and whether it came pre-loaded on a new PC or was in retail packaging.

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Sounds if they are at least trying

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to A kinder, gentler Microso ...

Although recently several thousand Pirate copies of XP Pro where seized here and destroyed. M$ could have helped us all no end by allowing each of their resellers a copy of a counterfeit product so we could show the customers what to look for. They could quite easily disable the CD and then send them out with the books.

When this happened I rang my "friendly" M$ sales person and asked for one of the counterfeit copies and I would be quite happy it scratch the living daylights out of the data side of the CD as I only wanted the front and the book which where almost a perfect copy. The reply was "We don't do that!" It kind of makes it hard for people to know the difference when even I do not know for certain what to look for as I've either always being buying Pirate M$ Products from one of their registered resellers or Genuine Product but how can I see a difference in the spacing of 2 letters on the CD face and Book if I do not already know the difference? They will not even show these at a Partners Meeting so we are all left in the dark. I guess as I used to work with banks we always got samples of counterfeit currency supplied to us so we could spot the differences this is something that M$ should consider doing as it would only help them no end.

The other thing that I really do find objectionable with XP is I have a Volume License product and every time a Service Pack becomes available I have to change the product keys so it is accepted as Genuine. With SP 1 this had to be done before the SP was installed but with SP 2 the OS can read from M$ as genuine and after the patch has been applied it gets read as a pirate which means another call to M$ for a new product key and then at least half a day wasted changing everything. If I was getting paid to do this it wouldn't be a problem but as it is I'm loosing money just to appear to keep the stuff recognized as genuine. Needless to say I have not bothered changing things since SP 2 was installed as I haven't had the time to waste and until the WGA becomes something that directly affects me I'm not going to bother going through all the problems again.

Now if M$ was really trying to get their act together they would know that they have already once supplied me with a different product key and should have sent me a different one when SP 2 was released as they knew what was going to happen, they already have a confirmed record of needing to do this once so why should I have to go through the whole mess again? It's not so much me personally but a lot of my customers have exactly the same problem and I just hate sitting on the phone to M$ with Volume License product going through all the rig ma roll and being treated as if I'm trying to steal from them.

Col ]:)

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Possible fly in the ointment?

by deepsand In reply to Sounds if they are at lea ...

My reading of the article suggests that those who cannot identify the seller and/or produce a receipt, as might well be the case in instances where the box was custom built, might be eligible for the the reduced rate only.

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Well actually I've had bigger problems

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Possible fly in the ointm ...

With off the shelf ones.

I had to reload a HP last week and when it came time to activate the M$ Products they where found to be according to M$ anyway non genuine. :)

Well that was obviously a mistake on M$ part as there was no way that HP would be selling pirated M$ software particularly on a cheap piece of junk like this one was. What I actually think happened was the HP Recovery disk installed XP SP1 and I had applied SP2 which I've noticed previously seems to change XP and the way it is recognized by MS. All my personal Volume License stuff is exactly the same and most of the Volume License stuff that I sell shows exactly the same thing when SP 2 is installed.

It's a real pain having to change product keys on all the computers in a business as with SP 1 we had to do this prior to installing that Service Pack and you knew exactly what you where getting into but with SP 2 they got sneaky and messed everything up.

I've actually been speaking to M$ on this issue and all that they require here at least is the name of the place you brought the thing from and all the custom boxes that I've seen here have a makers sticker on the outside of the case and they defiantly have something from the maker on the inside with a date that the item was assembled or sold.

For the Anti Piracy M$ here goes to that shop and buys several computers they send in different people and they each buy one and then M$ checks the validity of the products and if they are found to be pirate or imported then start legal action. I get a regular Infringement Alert from M$ which not only names the companies but also lists the principals of the business by name and address, what it is that they have done and what they have settled for out of court or what the court found against them. Naturally for purely economic reasons most of these are settled out of court.

One of these bright sparks actually had COA's made up all with the same key on them and was selling the boxes without CD's. The software was all volume license so there was no activation required.

People like this only make it harder for the rest of us you insist on doing the right thing and they really P##s me off that they seem to get away with total immunity and then M$ comes to me complaining that I list on my Web Site their Anti Piracy Contact details. Try to figure that one out!

Col ]:)

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Independent "OEMs"

by deepsand In reply to Well actually I've had bi ...

There are still a lot of one-man shops turning out custom boxes, in areas with a high demand & a low ability/desire to pay, such as college towns.

In these environs, where there are a sufficient number of those with the requisite skills for building them, the trade in custom boxes loaded with ripped software booms.

And, many of the customers are not students, but faculty members & other staff, as well as the general public which, by virtual of providing goods & services to the student body, are well plugged-in to the happenings both on and off campus.

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Damned if they do, damned if they don't

by kevaburg In reply to A kinder, gentler Microso ...

This is something I have heard alot in recent forums but it really is true. I am an ex-Microsoft hater and looking at the efforts they have made to improve security and the relative speed with which they respond to claims of threats in their software I think it is fair to say it is difficult to give them grief.

They have created operating systems with so much functionality and relative ease of use that it is unlikely to be toppled from its seat any time soon.

Sure the software comes to the shops with problems that need resolving but they get resolved and lets face it; most of the problems come from people trying to crack their software in the first place.

As far as I can see it, the only people going to give Microsoft an overly hard time are the people trying to get one over and save a few pennies

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Actually my biggest gripe with M$ is

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Damned if they do, damned ...

Not the Pirates but the discounts that are given to the big boys who can make a desktop unit admittedly a crappy piece of equipment load it with all M$ Software and sell it for only several hundred $ more than I can buy the exact same software for.

This is what makes pirating their software so attractive to some businesses or as was shown here recently in a Court Case a business was buying in Genuine MS product from OS and selling it here at a massive reduced rate about 50% of the current wholesale value here.

When a company like MS who virtually owns the Desktop Market they are also setting the rules to suit themselves and still expecting us to compete with the big end of town who have special deals.

Even yesterday I had to reload a HP with its HP disk and COA code and when I rang MS for an activation key for Windows and Office I was promptly told that it was all Pirate Software. The whole thing is just plain ridiculous and even the guy at MS activation center accepted this fact.

But it does make life hard for the small end of town who provide the specialized services that the customers seem to want.

What should have happened was I was supposed to sell the owner new software and retail at that because OEM was not appropriate for that job but if HP was doing the work they would have activated the products themselves without a problem.

Col ]:)

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