Windows phone home

By | June 8, 2006

Appearantly, Windows Genuine Advantage calls home every day.

Microsoft Corp. acknowledged Wednesday that it needs to better inform users that its tool for determining whether a computer is running a pirated copy of Windows also quietly checks in daily with the software maker.

The company said the undisclosed daily check is a safety measure designed to allow the tool, called Windows Genuine Advantage, to quickly shut down in case of a malfunction. For example, if the company suddenly started seeing a rash of reports that Windows copies were pirated, it might want to shut down the program to make sure it wasn’t delivering false results.

Did you catch that?  I’ll repeat it for you.  “Undisclosed.”  That means they didn’t tell us about it at all.  Well, now they have, and they are looking for a better way of telling us that it does that in EULA.  Personally, I think that each and every user of this program should be able to get a tool to remove the WGA immediately.

Of course, they are playing it like it’s a “undisclosed” feature and not a blemish.  Typical jargon for when you get caught with your pants down.  If it checks in, what else does it tell them?

This isn’t exactly good for the big brother image that many people hold of them.

Lauren Weinstein, who is co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility and was one of the first people to notice the daily communications to Microsoft, said he understands and sympathizes with Microsoft’s desire to control piracy. But he said it’s problematic that Microsoft did not disclose all the program’s communications with the company.

Weinstein said he also was surprised that Microsoft decided to release so widely a tool that it says is in a “pilot” mode and might need to be suddenly shut down.

Lauren poses a great question.  Why, if the program needs to be babysat daily, did they push it out to so many people so quickly?  Maybe the greed of making all those pirated copies of Windows pay up was just too much.  At $200 a license, if only 10% of the millions that have it installed are pirated, it could mean Billions in additional revenue.  That’s nothing to cough at.  Of course, it could also mean that Linux might grab a bigger piece of the desktop market as the pirated version users become annoyed by the messages and make the switch to the venerable penguin.