Opinion: Microsoft's Revised WGA Version Still Annoying, Unfriendly to Users

Microsoft's reviled Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program got a face-lift last week, and the company rolled out a new version of the antipiracy program to users via Automatic Updates. The new version of WGA provides more information to users who have a copy of Windows that WGA suspects is pirated, and features a new "indeterminate" mode, in which the program determines that a copy of Windows is possibly--but not definitely--pirated.

Yep, it's all about the user experience, folks. Although one might give Microsoft credit for switching from the previous system--in which WGA determined that Windows was either genuine or not, with no middle ground--the new system really serves only to highlight that the WGA tools often have no clue whether a copy of Windows is illegitimate. In the indeterminate mode, WGA will provide users with tools to help establish the legitimacy of their system, putting the onus of proof on the user instead of on Microsoft. It's unclear whether this is the type of benefit users were asking for from Microsoft's Genuine Advantage program.

Also, many users will take exception to Microsoft's continued practice of shipping WGA to users via Automatic Updates, a tool that's specifically designed for delivering critical security updates--not spyware, which the previous WGA version was proven to be. However, Microsoft said it promised to update WGA "every three or four months," and this update satisfies that promise.

In an interview with "InformationWeek", analyst Michael Cherry suggested that the new WGA version really just provides Microsoft with a way to avoid the numerous support calls caused by the earlier buggy versions of WGA, which often flagged systems as false positives--legitimate systems that WGA deemed pirated. Cherry said that now, instead of being "annoyed and mad when they call," Microsoft customers can "be sent off on a whole day adventure to troubleshoot validation for Microsoft." Sounds like a win-win.

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