I guess I’m not the only person in Microsoft who thought that stopping software working when it seemed to be pirated was a good idea. To be honest, I still do. However, the process has to be infallible. If it’s 99.9% correct and you sell 100 Million copies that’s 100,000 people who get the wrong experience. There have been enough documented cases of the system going wrong to create worry in people’s minds. In reality the risk of a legitimate system getting dumped into reduced functionality mode (and then only until you had called the activation line) was very small in indeed, but people felt like it could happen to them.
So it’s changing… Here are two quotes from the press release.
All copies of Windows Vista still require activation and the system will continue to validate from time to time to verify that systems are activated properly. What is changing with SP1 is the nature of the experience for those systems that are never activated or that fail validation
Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won’t lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action
In other words if your system looks like it’s pirated you’ll get nagged until you sort it out.
The BBC picked up the story. Over at ZD-Net everyone seemed to be talking about it. Mary Jo had the story with some interesting quotes very early. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, had a piece called See, complain loud enough and Microsoft will listen (people often think complaining to a huge company, Microsoft or anyone else, won’t achieve anything. It can, but it takes more than person to do it).
Ed Bott said “The case for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 just got a lot stronger” A lot ? my first reaction is that Ed’s over-stating it. He is not the only person who calls the feature a “Kill Switch” either, he notes that “The Softies responsible for WGA, wince when they hear the term “kill switch.” They prefer a more benign description, reduced functionality mode”.
Ed does have a track record of knowing what he’s talking about. I’d flag his recent piece Five secrets to faster Vista starts as evidence of methodical research and a knowledge of Vista (ditto his piece How green is your PC). So I’m wavering a little in my conviction that we had it right to start with. But if we can’t convince legitimate customers that the system won’t accidentally treat them as pirates, then we need to change.