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Microsoft Exec Backs Off Windows 7 'Hack' Comment

A Microsoft executive who last week appeared to refer to bloggers advocating illegal Windows 7 upgrades as 'hacks' now says his comments were misunderstood.

In a Monday blog post, Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead in Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, said his now-infamous blog post titled "Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 upgrade is an upgrade" wasn't aimed at Microsoft bloggers, but at technical workarounds that make it possible to clean install Windows 7 using upgrade media.

"So for anyone out there thinking my post was trying to 'make an example' of someone as a 'hack' or that I was calling someone specifically a 'hack,' sorry to disappoint you," Ligman wrote in the blog post.

For the past several months, Windows 7 testers have been asking Microsoft for technical details on Windows 7 upgrades but the company hasn't responded. So some Microsoft bloggers have developed workarounds for clean installing Windows 7 using upgrade media, something Microsoft says is illegal if a machine doesn't have an existing version of Windows installed.

Ligman, as the public face of Microsoft's Byzantine software licensing program, has been particularly vocal about the consequences of using improperly licensed software, often invoking the specter of Business Software Alliance audits and other legal troubles.

Some media reports have assumed Ligman's "hack" reference was to Paul Thurrott of the Supersite For Windows blog, who published details on the Windows 7 upgrade workaround last week. Ed Bott, another noted Microsoft blogger, has also called out Microsoft over the issue. So have dozens of posters who've left comments on Ligman's Microsoft SMB Community blog.

But Ligman insists he wasn't using the term "hack" in a pejorative sense. "There appears to be a lot of reading through 'pre-determined conclusion' lenses," Ligman wrote in the blog post.

Although Ligman is downplaying the issue, Thurrott sees it as an example of Microsoft's heavy-handed approach to software licensing and its tendency to punish its body of customers for the actions of a few software pirates.

"This is very much about how Microsoft communicates with his customers, and while Ligman tries to make the case that Microsoft cares very much about its customers, this little episode is telling them otherwise," Thurrott wrote in a Monday blog post .

The good news is that the Windows 7 upgrade kerfluffle has led to a great deal of feedback that Ligman says he has shared with higher-ups.

"I have submitted your various comments on this topic to the appropriate people for that topic and will be happy (believe me) to post the exact link to where you should go for this information as soon as I hear back," Ligman wrote.

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