BitDepth 584 - July 10

Microsoft calls a meeting to talk about their Genuine Advantage programme and the pitfalls of piracy...
A Vista caution and scorecard

Microsoft's General Manager for the West Indies, George Gobin introduces the company's new country manager for Trinidad and Tobago, Terrence Phillip at the Hilton meeting. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Microsoft's local representatives called an odd little meeting last week to discuss, among other things, their Windows Genuine Advantage initiative.
The thing is, it's really easy to get the Redmond company's Territory Manager, George Gobin, distracted from the topic at hand with a few questions about Microsoft products, so your faithful servant was also able to squeeze a status report on the first hundred days of Windows Vista, the company's newest operating system release.

Gobin was surprisingly frank about the status of Vista in the Caribbean. Despite gung ho reports of Vista sales surpassing Windows XP in their first two months of sales and overall sales of 20 million copies, Vista's adoption rate has hovered around 5% in the region, with much of the activity happening in enterprise, where adoption is facilitated by corporate agreements with Microsoft.
These agreements make upgrades to Vista essentially free, but migration in large companies is tied to regular cycles of equipment replacement as well as issues of compatibility with crucial business applications for which Vista must be certified.

Selling Vista
Microsoft aggressively pursues customer upgrades in enterprise environments, setting up test workstations to preview the new OS and how it works with mission critical business software.
In addition, Microsoft doesn't really count on individual boxed sales of their OS in the Caribbean and Latin America, preferring to let partners drive the adoption of the operating system with feature upgrades to their software products and letting the new OS seep into the public consciousness through new equipment purchases.

Indeed, that figure of 20 million copies quoted in several US news stories includes copies that ship on new computers, which should, if Microsoft had its way, have been all of them.
That hasn't turned out to be the case.
"You'll see ads for computers in the paper," notes George Gobin, "that carry the 'we recommend Windows Vista' logo, but when you check the fine print, they're shipping with XP."
The implication? Customers have the right to insist on Vista with new equipment.

Cutoff date for XP pre-installs
By early 2008, all licenses for manufacturers to include Windows XP with new equipment will run out, but the 800 pound gorilla of the business, Dell, has reversed a prior commitment to ship Vista only systems and will offer XP on some products.
The twin bugbears of early adoption included incompatible drivers, the tiny bits of software that ease interaction between your new computers and older printers and scanners, and general software compatibility.

Reports of these early hiccups have tended to cool enthusiasm for wholesale adoption of Vista, but as manufacturers get up to speed and offer downloadable updates for both software and hardware, the new OS will become inevitable for PC computer users.
Those new users will then discover the other issue with the product that distances it from earlier releases like Windows 95 and 2000. It's much harder to crack and keep functional as an illegal installation.

Activation and cracking
Windows XP introduced activation, an online confirmation of authenticity and ownership that the company steadily improved over the life of XP and has made even more user-friendly in Vista.
What man can build, man can break, and software, no matter how enthusiastically protected, is no exception. The Windows Genuine Advantage campaign is really, at heart, a pre-emptive strike at the issues that crop up when users try to work with unauthorised copies of Vista, and the Genuine Advantage programme is Microsoft's soft-sell on the advantages of a legitimate install of the new OS as it goes mainstream.

An installed copy of Vista can run without activation for thirty days before it drops into what the company calls "reduced functionality mode," at which point features such as the Aero interface and SpeedBoost disappear.
Thirty days after that, the software even more features go away and Microsoft makes it clear that this is supposed to happen to a copy of the product that hasn't been activated. If the software keys that came with your copy don't work, the local office is keen to help you straighten things out.
"We want to give you reasons to get Vista," insists Gobin.
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