In my previous post I severely criticized Microsoft over their implementation and handling of the Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy scheme. Approximately one in five systems fail validation It's only fair that I allow the company the right to reply. The comments didn't come in time to appear in the original post so I'm posting them here.
Q: What is Microsoft doing to eliminate false positives?
The Windows Vista Validation tools are very accurate at determining if a copy of Windows is genuine or not. We have found that many customers who originally felt their copy of Windows XP had been inaccurately labeled as non-genuine were surprised to learn that they were indeed running non-genuine software, often at no fault of their own. Microsoft works closely with these unknowing victims to remedy the situation. The false positive rate for WGA Validation failure is a fraction of one percent, and in these cases a bug was at fault and subsequently repaired. We are constantly evaluating the criteria for validation and continue to improve the process for customers.
Q: What steps will there be to protect the user against being falsely accused of piracy? What processes exist to resolve problems?
In the event of a mistake, customers will have a grace period in which they will have full functionality and Microsoft support. Even if they miss the grace period for some reason, Microsoft will provide support tools and other remedies.
Q: How many copies of Windows has WGA flagged as being non-genuine?
A: We don't provide exact numbers but approximately one in five systems fail validation - many because consumers were ripped off by unscrupulous dealers, counterfeiters, and "too good to be true" auction sites.
Q: What percentage of users flagged as not running a genuine copy of Windows go on to purchase the Windows Genuine Advantage Kit for $149? Is it fair to assume that "a fraction of one percent" of these users were running a genuine copy?
A: It is our sincere hope that there are no cases where genuine customers purchased a WGA kit. If any come to our attention we are committed to making sure they receive a full refund.
Q: Assuming that the false positive rate for WGA Validation failure is a fraction of one percent, what is Microsoft's message to those users wrongly accused of running pirated software?
A: We certainly apologize to any customer that has a system inaccurately labeled as non-genuine. We try to address every issue that comes to our attention and encourage any one who feels they might have been incorrectly identified as non-genuine to use resources like our customer support line, online forum or to contact Microsoft directly at WGATALK@microsoft.com.
A couple of points are worth picking up on.
- First is that Microsoft believes that the SPP mechanism that will ship with Windows Vista is going to be more robust that WGA is under XP. Good news there.
- Secondly, the rate of WGA failures is staggering, with one in five systems failing validation.
- If you've paid for a Windows Genuine Advantage Kit but think that you were already running a genuine copy of Windows, Microsoft want to hear from you.
- Finally, if you've been collared by WGA and you think that you are innocent, Microsoft wants to hear from you.
When Vista RC2 is released, I'll look at how making changes to the core hardware affects your activation status.