Yesterday’s revelation (read here, here, here, here, here, or here) that Microsoft would be watering down Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) in Windows Vista SP1 came as a bit of a surprise to me. Why, if WGA has been so successful in the prevention of piracy, and why if the mechanism caused so little collateral damage (both points Microsoft has been adamant about throughout) now backpedal and water down WGA?
The line that Microsoft has always maintained was that WGA prevented theft, protected users from being sold illegal software and that only a tiny number of users running genuine copies of Windows were affected. When put in those terms, WGA on Vista seemed like the perfect solution to the problem of piracy. Now, I’ve received first hand accounts from people who were adversely affected by WGA, and it doesn’t sound pretty, but these were always put down as the exception, not the rule. WGA worked. Not only that, but Microsoft has spent a year perfecting and fine-tuning this anti-piracy mechanism in order to further reduce false positives. Counterfeit rates for Vista are half that of XP.