Reader Voices: Advantage Microsoft

Reader Voices: Advantage Microsoft.

honor of Microsoft making its Window Genuine Advantage license
validation procedures mandatory this week, I thought it would be
appropriate to offer a sampling of comments we've had about the program
from current or former Microsoft customers. Or, as I like to call them,
the Windows Genuinely Disadvantaged.

Some readers have reported that Windows installations that they have
every reason to believe valid show up as illegitimate in Microsoft's
validation process. “Imagine my surprise when I actually entered the
Microsoft logo'ed key posted to the bottom of my laptop and was told
that my Windows XP program, pre-loaded at the dealership that sold me
the laptop, was not legitimate,” one reader wrote. This computer was
purchased from a reputable dealer, who advertises regularly in national
magazines, and who charged what I believed at the time was an
exorbitant price. I'm not a techie. I need the computer for my
business. What do I do now, go out and buy another version of XP? I'd
like for someone from Microsoft to advise me what they would recommend.
Ed, why don't you contact them and ask them specifically what course of
action they'd recommend? Should I have my attorney contact the company
that sold the laptop to me? Should I have my attorney contact
Microsoft? Should I sue both the vendor and Microsoft for fraudulent
representation? It's going to get pretty interesting for someone when
they 'turn me off.' First stop will be the Attorney General of the
State of Washington.”

Readers also had their doubts that fighting piracy was the real
motivation behind Microsoft's program. “Microsoft hasn't been able to
innovate for a long time now, and are thus unable to show sales and
revenue growth based on the merits of their products and real customer
demand,” one reader wrote. “Customers have few if any reasons to
purchase newer versions of either Windows or Office. I assert that Bill
knows that a certain percentage of legitimately licensed copies will
have re-activation issues in the coarse of normal everyday hardware and
OS maintenance activities. This is really just an indirect license
'sunset' methodology — many less-sophisticated users will take the
easy way out, and have an excuse to go buy that new PC they had their
eye on anyway. And, guess what, Bill sells another copy of Windows, and
the new one has an even stronger tractor beam back to Redmond. I've
never been a fan of Linux, but I'm about ready to give it a try.”

Many readers saw the whole Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy
effort as yet further justification for their decision to get out of
the Microsoft licensing maze and into Open Source. “Even if everything
else were equal — and it is not even close — just the licensing
issues alone are sufficient,” wrote one reader. “Absent the remote
possibility of SCO actually winning, there is no way that a Linux
Server can be illegal. But even if you have a properly licensed
Microsoft server, in the event a disgruntled employee or evil
competitor calls the BSA or SPA and you find a strike team breaking
down your doors and confiscating all your equipment, you still are
guilty until proven innocent. Can you find every single COA, CALC,
receipt etc. across numerous upgrades? And this begs the question of if
there even is such a thing as a legal Microsoft Server. With all the
assorted limitations and myriads of additional licenses you need to be
able to do anything useful I have never heard of anyone, even
Microsoft, who is willing to certify that a client is actually properly
licensed for what they intend. According to the EULAs, you are not
actually allowed to do anything useful anyway. If Linux were half as
fast, unreliable and twice as difficult to install, it would still be a
better deal.”

One reader made the astute point that all this verification nonsense
would be unnecessary if Microsoft hadn't forced OEMs to go to OS
recovery systems without a full-fledged Windows CD. “This whole problem
has roots when Microsoft forced vendors to move to 'restore disks and
then no disks, only software restores on hidden partitions,” the reader
wrote. “I always had good reason to believe I had purchased a
legitimate copy when I received a legal CD and certificate in a sealed
Microsoft package. I know these were copied also, put no small-time
operator could do that easily. This is the root of much of this

Other readers seconded that motion. “It's much easier to fake it
when you don't have the media to prove your license,” another reader
wrote. “And those Certificates of Authenticity? Please. Perhaps
businesses keep them, but do home users really pay any attention to
those? And yes, a few years ago Microsoft stopped supplying original
media to OEMs. Their policy at the time was that only recovery CDs were
allowed for OEM installs. I don't know if this is still their policy,
but I have to assume it is. I don't even use OEM installs anymore, but
buy separate boxed copies instead. It's just smarter and more flexible
in the long run — especially since OEM Windows can only be used on the
original machine. If you upgrade, too bad: no Windows.”

In other words, many readers felt Windows Genuine Advantage is just
another of the many licensing tricks Microsoft uses to get more money
from customers instead of providing better products. “Another
interesting thing to note is that Microsoft will not publish their
license management API's,” wrote one reader. “You can use Microsoft
tools to display them on a per-domain basis, but they will not tell you
how they are able to do that. There is no way to effectively count
licenses across the enterprise. I believe this is by design. I am quite
sure that they don't want you to be able to count licenses. They want
you to keep disposing of perfectly valid licenses and buying new ones.
This is their core business model — selling unneeded licenses by
generating licensing models that even they can't decipher. If, because
I refuse to be audited or to buy a new copy of Windows every time I
plug a new motherboard into my favorite case, Microsoft wishes to label
me a pirate, I can only say this to them: It takes one to know one.”

Read and post comments about this story here.  [Ed Foster's Radio Weblog]

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