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Microsoft axes anti-piracy tool

Alex Scroxton

Negative feedback from customers and resellers has forced Microsoft to axe the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) tool from Vista in the new operating system's first major service pack (SP1).

The approach the vendor had been taking with Vista, differing from its policy with XP, was to warn users after 30 days that if they were using an illegal copy of the OS, functionality would be gradually reduced until they faced a 'black screen of death' (MicroScope, 17 September).

As a result of the changes the traditional approach used in XP will be applied to Vista, with users receiving pop-up notifications that trigger them to approach authorised partners.

Michala Wardell, Microsoft UK head of anti-piracy, denied talk of a climb-down and believed the notification approach would be more effective.

"It's a change of style; not a climb-down. If anything it's an increase in attempts to combat piracy," she said.

The first batch of notifications will go out early in 2008, with the channel warned to expect customers' requests for legal copies.

Wardell expressed frustration that when the idea of reduced functionality was researched among customers and partners it had been welcomed but after the scheme launched there was negative feedback.

"We want people to know they have a non-genuine product but we don't want to be the type of organisation that leaves SMEs sitting in the dark because they are using systems that are running on counterfeit," she added.

Mike Lawrence, managing director at business services supplier Bentpenny, thought SP1 was the last great hope for Vista. "Microsoft has to think about revamping the functions," he said.

Lawrence suggested the vendor had not done enough to make Vista viable for businesses in terms of its ability to function as part of a corporate network.

"I'm hoping for big things on SP1. There's rumoured to be a big networking fix. If Microsoft adds that it could rescue this product," he added.

One source suggested that resellers were not up-selling Vista to XP users because they lacked confidence in their own technical abilities.

He criticised the way Microsoft had offered training. "Lots of it is technical training for support and design people, but we've not seen a great deal of end-user training for regular users to get the most out of it."

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