No WGA "kill switch," says Microsoft

A new statement from Microsoft's PR agency denies the rumor that the Windows Genuine Advantage validation tool will be used to shut off computers running "non-genuine" copies of Windows. But the new statement still doesn't settle the question.

Yesterday, at the end of the workday, I received this e-mail from a representative of Microsoft’s PR agency, Waggener Edstrom:

No, Microsoft anti-piracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer.  In our ongoing fight against piracy, we are constantly finding and closing loopholes pirates use to circumvent established policies. The game is changing for counterfeiters. In Windows Vista we are making it notably harder and less appealing to use counterfeit software, and we will work to make that a consistent experience with older versions of Windows as well. In alignment with our anti-piracy policies we have been continually improving the experience for our genuine customers, while restricting more and more access to ongoing Windows capabilities for those who choose not to pay for their software. Our genuine customers deserve the best experience, and so over time we have made the following services and benefits available only to them:  Windows Update service, Download Center, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Defender, and Windows Media Player 11, as well as access to a full range of updates including non-security related benefits. We expect this list to expand considerably as we continue to add value for our genuine customers and deny value to pirates. Microsoft is fully committed to helping any genuine customers who have been victims of counterfeit software, and offer free replacement copies of Windows to those who've been duped by high quality counterfeiters. There is more information at our website

I’m still trying to reconcile this rambling response with the terse statement I received from a Microsoft representative on Monday, flatly refusing to deny a report that WGA will become mandatory in the fall. (Read the full story here.) In fact, I can’t find anything in this new response that contradicts the earlier statement I received from a Microsoft spokesperson, who told me that “as the WGA Notifications program expands in the future, customers may be required to participate.” [emphasis added]

I’ve asked once again for an opportunity to speak with a Microsoft executive so I can ask some specific questions about the WGA program. So far, I’ve received no response to my requests.

If I hear back today, I’ll update this post. And I’ll have a lot more to say about this subject next week, hopefully with input from Microsoft.

Update 30-June 2:15PM PDT: Microsoft says they have no intention of answering any questions about WGA. According to the same Waggener Edstrom spokesperson who sent me the statement reprinted above, "We are not granting interviews on this, as all of the information we have to share about WGA Notifications is contained in the response I provided below and the PressPass article that I sent you a link for."

Whoever is giving Microsoft its PR advice on this issue is doing them a serious disservice.

Update 12-August: For a detailed discussion of what you'll see if WGA flags your copy of Windows as "not genuine," see Busted! What happens when WGA attacks and the accompanying image gallery.