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Microsoft is building in strict and punitive "protection" controls into Windows Vista and next Windows Server to ensure that consumers and business customers are properly licensed and using legal copies of Windows.
The Microsoft Software Protection Platform, unveiled formally on Wednesday, requires that all customers consumers who buy PCs and business customers with volume licensing agreements activate their Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn Server licenses with Microsoft and prove that they have a genuine copy of Windows client or server running or face punishment.
If a retail consumer fails to active their product within 30 days of purchase, or tries to activate Vista and fails, key features of the new Windows upgrade the "Aero" user interface, Windows Defender, ReadyBoost performance enhancer, Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Media Player 11 will be disabled.
The company acknowledges that customers with non-valid Windows will be nagged with "persistent notifications" and given the chance to get legal, but if they don't comply within 30 days, the product will automatically move into this "reduced functionality mode," Microsoft said.
As part of the new program, Microsoft is introducing new Multiple Activation Key (MAK) options for customers with fewer than 25 PCs and a Key Management Service option for corporations with more than 25 PCs or more than five Windows servers. These licensed customers must activate within 30 days or also be forced to use the crippled version of Vista, Microsoft acknowledged in a detailed paper released Wednesday.
Windows XP has product activation requirements in place today for consumers. The existing Windows OEM activation option, for example, allows PC makers and system builders to pre-activate Windows for their customers via a System-Lock Pre-Installation or end-users can activate systems they purchase at retail on their own.
But the new Microsoft Software Protection Platform, which has been under development for several years, imposes activation requirements on volume licensed customers for the first time, as first reported by CRN.
It also gives business customers new fulfillment options: They can activate, renew and add new licenses online directly via a Microsoft Activation Server.
Volume Activation 2.0, the new policy, requires activation of volume license keys (VLKs). The intent is to make it more difficult for volume license keys to drift out of the corporation and into the hands of thieves, not change fulfillment methods, Microsoft maintains.
In a brief interview with CRN, Microsoft licensing executives noted, for example, that the KMS service can be installed in-house and administered by an IT administrator, solution provider or managed services partner. Still, the company also acknowledges that all customers, including SMB users, must activate going forward.
System builders and resellers were upbeat about the program as long as it works as advertised.
"I think it's about time. Thieves have been costing the software industry too much and legitimate users have nothing to fear so long as the program is accurate in its determination of what is and isn't legit," said Brian Bergin, president of Terabyte Computers. " Barring problems with the accuracy, I'm all for it.
The new platform will debut in Vista and in the Longhorn Windows server, and Microsoft is developing a KMS Service for Windows Server 2003. Microsoft also intends to integrate the activation platform in many other of its software products.
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