With a reminder to "not get silly here," ocbwilg joins several others in casting doubt on the source of the rumor about a mass turn-off:
"A 'front-line tech-support drone' who gets paid $12 an hour to read the support script is somehow going to know what sort of top-secret plans Microsoft has for the next six months? I highly doubt it. It sounds more like the sort of thing that a help desk drone would say to try to persuade a clueless computer user to do things their way.
Then, of course, there's the fact that if you install WGA today on a pirated copy of Windows, all you get is the notification message that pops up. You don't get shut down, and you don't even get cut off from Windows security updates (which are truly the only updates that matter, and even they aren't that good). I find it very difficult to believe that Microsoft is going to go from 'Hey, your copy of Windows doesn't look genuine, but you can still install our security updates' to 'I don't know if your system is pirated or not because you haven't installed WGA, but even if it is a legitimate copy I'm just going to shut you down simply because I have no way of verifying it.' Especially not in the span of 6 months."
Along the same lines, another reader asks "Why are we making all this fuss over what could just be a rumor unwittingly spread by a clueless help desk worker? Since when did help-desk techs become privy to future, unannounced plans for a company, let alone ones as sensitive as this one?"Besides the dubious source, the sheer scale of such an action convinces reader Willith that it's not going to happen — he promises to eat his hat if it does:
"The thing to look it is how this might affect legitimate corporate versions of XP — and by that, I mean VLK versions actually being used in an enterprise setting.
The company for which I work has more than 100,000 copies of XP running in offices on six continents, participating in one of the largest Active Directory installations in the world. Every system's load is tightly controlled and managed, and I can tell you that there are no copies of WGA anywhere on any of those desktops (I've seen the SMS reports). Nor will there ever be.
People say to 'vote with your dollars,' but your dollars, and my dollars, don't matter. Large corporate dollars matter — like the kind of dollars that can outfit a company's world-wide IT needs. WGA has no place on a configuration-controlled and managed enterprise desktop, and MS would never risk upsetting their real customers — corporate Windows & Office sales — to emplace something like this."
Working machines matter to smaller users, too, though, and Kremit mentions reports spotted online of "Dell desktops, valid CDs, and other licensed systems having problems with WGA," writing "When these systems stop working, people are going to flip. To them, this will be akin to the computer crashing and taking their data along with it."
Other readers had some specific gripes about the way WGA currently misfires in their own experience; Jnaujok maintains that it hasn't worked well for him:
"What about my two perfectly legitimately licensed machines at home that fail the 'Windows Genuine Advantage' test every time they update WGA? Considering that one of them is my copy of Advanced Server 2003, I won't be exactly happy when it gets killed this fall. (Hey, I just use it for the mail server program because I can't stand sendmail.)
And I'm just a little bitty guy with one server running. What happens when this hits some company's server farm and they all shut down? How much liability is Microsoft going to have when that happens?
And every time they 'fix' my copy after the new WGA comes out, I have to make manual registry changes. Can you imagine having to do that on a 500 machine server farm?"
Not everyone objects to the idea of harsher treatment for unlicensed copies of Windows; several readers welcomed the idea of more active license revocation by Microsoft as beneficial to the world of free software; WhiteWolf666 described a turn in that direction on Microsoft's part as a "solution to the Linux pricing problem," writing
Reader soren42 lays out what this might mean: "If you suddenly force all the non-legal users off your platform, you're forcing them to use something else. Which means, in turn, more demand for OpenOffice, games on Linux, GAIM, ad infinitum — until there is a more, better, complete Linux end-user software stack to seriously compete with Windows.""35 percent of PC software is pirated. I'm guessing that Windows XP is highly represented in that group (of pirated software; i.e. at least 30% of worldwide Windows installs are not legal). If even 10% of that user base decides to switch to Linux rather than pay the Windows tax, it'll be a substantial marketshare boost.
And the remaining 90%? They might decide that the MSRP cost of Windows is too close to the MSRP of a brand-new dual-core Mac.
I'm thrilled. MS has ridden on piracy marketshare for far too long. I hope they do every thing they possibly can to stamp out software piracy, and I hope they succeed."
Other readers share that sentiment, with a twist: on the basis that remote turn-off really is in the near future of Windows, some, like reader ewhac, say they're through with Microsoft: "I just built a brand new machine, primarily for gaming. Oblivion has been fairly sweet. But it looks like I won't be playing those games anymore — not unless the entire game industry decides to support Linux. ... This is morally and ethically reprehensible, and Microsoft knows it, and apparently doesn't care. Well, I do care. I do not, and shall not, grant consent to Microsoft to remotely snoop on my machine, regardless of their ostensible reasons. If my copy of Windows stops functioning as a result, I will take that as a maliciously incorporated product defect, and respond accordingly."
Most people won't be doing the same, in the eyes of RightSaidFred99, who scoffs "Give me a break, people won't be moving to Linux. They'll find a hack for Windows, they'll buy Windows, or more than likely they'll just buy a new PC that comes with Windows legally bundled. Nobody is moving to Linux because the games aren't there, the thousands of cheesy little Windows applications people love aren't there, it's different (read: scary), and it's a pain in the ass for most joe schmoes to install."Large corporations running Windows are in a more delicate position. Reader lynx_user_abroad doubts that many corporate users are likely to go seek out either free or illegal alternatives to updated Windows licenses. To the suggestion that many users would do just that, he writes
"In a contest between you and them, I'd suspect Microsoft is in the better position to understand the nature of the addiction they have created. And I'd feel safe saying that even if you yourself had succeeded in completely breaking your addiction to Windows, which I suspect you haven't.
Most people, most businesses are so hopelessly addicted to Windows that they literally can't even conceptualize their own survival without it. I'm always amused when I read the latest rant about a Windows vulnerability on an IE-only site, or read about some program manager publishing their 'Linux Strategy' document as a PowerPoint chart.
Think of all the hundreds of thousands of Microsoft Office documents the average business has, or the potential millions of dollars worth of intellectual property and business intelligence those documents represent. Now, even if they have the skill and determination to propose leaving Windows behind, think of the complexity of dealing with a customer base which might not be as skilled, or determined."
Several readers say WGA's phone-home capability doesn't affect the users who Microsoft would be expected to target, anyhow. GenericJoe says "Forget that," writing "I am a legitimate user of Windows. I know I am, because I bought a licensed copy from a reputable dealer. Thus, I figure, I don't need the WGA to tell me if I have a legitimate copy. I do have a legitimate copy. ...And Microsoft doesn't get to know anything else about anything I do, or affect me. The idea that I can be held hostage because I don't want to trust software from Microsoft. Well, that's kind of crazy."
Reader riptide_dot offers similar sentiments, asking "What if I did pay for [Windows] and I don't want the WGA software installed? I'm not allowed to use the software I paid for because I don't want to add on to it? That's like selling me a car and telling me that if I refuse to put a spoiler on the back that I won't be allowed to drive it."
As to actually unauthorized users, Akaihiryuu asserts that
Based on the common-sense arguments made above, unless Microsoft manages to not only flatten wrinkles in WGA as it currently operates, but also convince more users that check-ins with Redmond are close enough to their best interest to be worth accepting, mass turn-offs for Windows XP users seem unlikely.
- People who think they have a legal copy of Windows but really don't because whoever they bought it from screwed them, and
- People with legal copies who either don't want to run WGA for some reason, or
- People with legal copies who run WGA and it mistakenly identifies their machine as 'not legit.'"
Thanks to the readers whose comments helped inform this discussion, especially those quoted above: