Will Microsoft ever get WGA right? Last week, I reported on a mysterious outbreak of failures that were causing legitimate Windows XP users to fail validation and be tagged as pirates. This week, Microsoft's support forum is awash in reports from corporate and academic customers that volume license keys (VLKs) are suddenly being reported as blocked.
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For Windows Vista, Microsoft is rolling out a new version of its Windows Genuine Advantage program, complete with a new name: the Windows Software Protection Platform. This time, they mean business. Corporate customers have a new Volume Activation program, and anyone accused of piracy will be thrown into "reduced functionality" mode. Technically, it's not a kill switch, but for your Windows PC it's a near-death experience.
If you allow yourself to look at big corporations through the filter of conventional wisdom, all sorts of distortions emerge. Case in point: A couple of premier Web 2.0 sites this week praised Yahoo and Apple for "getting" what Google and Microsoft don't. But a closer look at the example they used shows that it's just business as usual.
Another Firefox update. Ho-hum. Oh. Wait. This one's an official release from ... Microsoft? If there's a browser war going on, someone forgot to tell the folks who are supposed to be doing the fighting.
Microsoft continues to insist that there are no problems with its Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program. But pesky customers keep spoiling the illusion by posting problem reports documenting the flaws. One recent example comes from a hospital, where doctors in the operating room can't view X-rays online until they click past bogus messages warning them that they may be victims of software piracy and demanding that they Get Genuine.
As I noted at the end of my earlier post on WGA failures, I contacted Microsoft last week and offered to brief them on my findings so that I could include a response in the original story. Despite repeated follow-ups, they declined that opportunity.
An independent analysis of reports to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage support forum confirms that problems with the company's anti-piracy program are growing. Our investigation found that 42% of people reporting WGA problems were running copies of Windows XP that Microsoft's own diagnostic utility confirmed as Genuine. Microsoft support representatives even have cut-and-paste answers that acknowledge these problems "are coming up more commonly now." Why does Microsoft continue to insist that WGA is problem-free?
Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program was an add-on to earlier versions of Windows and Office, but the Genuine Advantage code is baked into Windows Vista and Office 2007. And if you thought that Microsoft's next-generation WGA would work better than the current one, think again.
Does the multi-layered security protection in Windows Vista work? It's too early to provide a definitive answer, but Vista's handling of the zero-day VML exploit offers some encouraging news.
Microsoft touts Windows Vista as the most secure Windows ever, but critics say the changes are mostly cosmetic and are so annoying that most users will simply turn them off. There are big changes in the User Account Control feature in RC1. Have they done enough to win over skeptical users?