By Harry McCracken | Friday, July 31, 2009 at 10:19 am
Microsoft’s Alex Kochis has blogged about this week’s compromising of a Lenovo key for Windows 7 activation, which allowed hackers to activate unauthorized copies of Windows 7. He says that Lenovo’s customers won’t be affected when they buy Windows 7 PCs, but that Microsoft will “seek to alert” people running copies of Windows 7 that have been hacked with the leaked key.
Kochis also says this:
Our primary goal is to protect users from becoming unknowing victims, because customers who use pirated software are at greater risk of being exposed to malware as well as identity theft. Someone asked me recently – and I think it’s worth noting here — whether we treat all exploits equally in responding to new ones we see. Our objective isn’t to stop every “mad scientist” that’s out there from dabbling; our aim is to protect our customers from commercialized counterfeit software that impacts our customers’ confidence in knowing they got what they paid for. That will continue to be our focus as we continue to evolve our anti-piracy platforms, and respond to new threats that we see emerge in the future.
Really? The primary goal of Microsoft’s copy-protection technologies is to prevent people from unwittingly buying pirated copies of Windows? The impact that piracy has on Microsoft’s wallet is apparently a secondary issue–one that’s not even worth mentioning in this post or on this page about the “Windows Genuine Advantage” program.
As I’ve often said, Microsoft is entitled to protect its intellectual property, and nobody is entitled to get Windows without paying for it. I buy the idea that one reason to avoid using pirated copies of Windows–either knowingly or unknowingly–is because it can be dangerous. And I acknowledge the fact that Microsoft has done a good job of fixing earlier aspects of activation that caused hassles for paying customers.
But I still don’t understand why all discussion of Windows Activation and other Microsoft anti-piracy technologies can’t begin with the honest disclosure of one simple fact: They exist to prevent people from stealing Microsoft software. If Microsoft took that approach rather than devoting 98% of its communications about copy protection to insisting that they exist mostly to help Microsoft customers, it would make me take its efforts more seriously, not less so.
With Windows 7, Microsoft is planning to rename the patronizing “Windows Genuine Advantage” program to the much more straightforward Windows Anti-Piracy Technology. Wouldn’t that provide a good opportunity to usher in a new era of grownup-to-grownup communications about its copy protection efforts?