Seven ways to fix WGA

A few ideas on how Microsoft can make its copy protection more tolerable

4. Make it less accusatory. Kochis's post today says that the glitch resulted in customers being told their copies of Windows weren't genuine. I've seen that message myself, and I'm pretty sure in that case that the copy of Windows was real--it was one that Microsoft had sent me. "We kind of think there's a chance that your copy of Windows might be fake, but there's really no way to know for sure--our apologies if we're wrong" would be a message more in line with WGA's current capabilities.

5. Stop the constant need for revalidation. The way that Microsoft makes you revalidate your copy of Windows as genuine most every time you download from its site may help foil pirates. But its a shabby way to treat paying customers, and it's not particularly clear why hundreds of millions of people whose copies of the OS are unquestionably legit need to be put through the rigmarole. (Microsoft pitches WGA as a customer benefit given that it'll tell you if someone has sold you a counterfeit copy of Windows; if you bought your PC from HP, Dell, Gateway, Sony, Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, or any of dozens of other companies, there's no reason on earth why you would want to be put through ongoing anti-piracy checks on a copy of the OS which Microsoft surely got paid for.)

6. Make the marketing less patronizing. No more happy people endorsing WGA, please. No more selling of it as a customer benefit. Just explain that it's an inconvenience that Microsoft puts customers through in order to make life difficult for software pirates.

7. Change the name. Normally, I'd be the last one to suggest that Microsoft change the name of something. But there's nothing advantageous about Windows Genuine Advantage, and it's hard to take it very seriously as long as its very name insults your intelligence. How about calling it Windows Anti-Piracy Validation?

For years, Microsoft's monopolistic position in operating systems has allowed it to treat its customers like they couldn't take their business elsewhere. I believe we're at the beginning of an era in which the company will have to work much harder to keep our business. Rethinking WGA from the ground up would be a good start...

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Harry McCracken

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