My blogging colleague Ed Bott has seen the future, re: Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). And it’s not pretty.
To date, users have had to deal with Microsoft’s WGA and Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) anti-piracy mechanisms when attempting to download new bits from Microsoft’s various download servers. But as of Vista – and Office 2007, according to Bott – Microsoft will be baking WGA and OGA into the new software releases themselves.
If WGA and OGA worked correctly most of the time, that fact wouldn’t be so worrisome to Bott and others who’ve been accused falsely of running bogus copies of Windows and Office. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
For the past couple of months, Microsoft has been warning users – in subtle, yet definite ways – that it planned to integrate WGA into Vista. Check out this statement from Kevin Johnson, co-president of Microsoft’s platforms and services unit, from the company’s financial analyst meeting this summer:
"We built a set of features and a set of functionality that is only available to genuine Windows customers. Windows Defender, for example, the anti-spyware for Windows XP and Windows Vista, is available to genuine Windows customers. Windows Media Player 11.0, Internet Explorer 7.0, will be available for download for Windows XP customers who are genuine, and of course those are built into Windows Vista.”
“Future updates to Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player for Windows Vista will require them to be genuine. And certainly there's some premium features built into the Windows Vista operating system that will require genuine validation as well. So we're really trying to amplify the fact that being genuine enables the set of benefits and value to access these types of features and capabilities."
And then there’s this acknowledgement, made by Windows Vista marketing chief Michael Sievert, at the company’s worldwide partner conference in July:
"We expect to do more to make Windows more differentiated when it's genuine, and so genuine customers get a truly different experience than non-genuine customers, as well as to make piracy harder, so that our genuine partners can do a better job competing with those that don't play by the rules.”
Will Microsoft withhold certain features from users who might have legitimate copies of Windows Vista but whom Microsoft identifies as possible pirates? Will the integrated copy of Internet Explorer 7 just stop working if WGA perceives you to be running illicit copies of Windows? Will Windows Photo Gallery curtail your access to your own photos? Will your Office 2007 ribbon unfurl?
Microsoft obviously has the right to insure that users of its software are legitimate, paying customers. But until more of the kinks are ironed out of these WGA and OGA mechanisms, perhaps Microsoft would do best to ban their inclusion in two of its most important, next-gen products. Falsely accused users could end up wreaking an awful lot of havoc….