The real reason(s) behind Microsoft's move to exorcise WGA from IE7

Summary:A day after Microsoft rolled out a refresh of Internet Explorer (IE) 7 that no longer requires Windows Genuine Validation (WGA) checks, industry watchers are speculating as to why the company did so. Why do you think the Softies made the move?

A day after Microsoft rolled out a refresh of Internet Explorer (IE) 7 that no longer requires Windows Genuine Validation (WGA) checks, industry watchers are speculating as to why the company did so.

The real reason(s) behind Microsoft’s move to exorcise WGA from IE7
The IE team, for its part, will say nothing more than what it posted on October 4 to the IE Team Blog:

"Because Microsoft takes its commitment to help protect the entire Windows ecosystem seriously, we’re updating the IE7 installation experience to make it available as broadly as possible to all Windows users"

In other words: Microsoft was worried that "pirates" might not be protected by all the security goodness the company has added to IE, so it decided to remove piracy checks from the IE 7 download process.

Not surprisingly, there are other theories as to why Microsoft removed WGA from the browser. Perhaps Microsoft decided that WGA was enough of a deterrent to result in IE 7 failing to gain marketshare as fast as the company would like. From Ars Technica:

"The move (to release an IE 7 refresh sans WGA) is remarkable because it is the first time that Microsoft has removed WGA checks from a product in order to increase the attractiveness of that product. It's difficult to see this as any but an attempt to get as many users as possible to install IE7, even those who have pirated Windows."

According to data from the market researchers at Net Applications, IE 6.X currently has 42.75 percent of the worldwide browser market. IE 7 has 34.6 percent. Firefox 2.0 has 13.7 percent. Both IE 7 and Firefox 2 share is growing, Net Applications says (though given Firefox's smaller user base, Firefox is growing more quickly).

I think Microsoft's move to decouple WGA from IE7 as aimed less at attracting the "pirated software" crowd -- as large as that contingent may be. Instead, I think Microsoft realizes that it is losing browser share to Firefox (and, a lesser extent, other competitors) primarily among more technical users. These kinds of users are more likely to be among those who are anti-WGA, I'd wager, equating repeated authentication checks with DRM.

[Poll=14]

Other reasons you think Microsoft might have pulled the WGA plug on IE 7? Do you expect the company to cut WGA from other products, too? If so, which ones?

(Microsoft Internet Explorer 7. Image by kk+. CC 2.0) 

Topics: Browser, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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