Microsoft’s activation service has always been somewhat controversial since its debut in Windows XP, but has turned out to be a necessary evil. The process started out being very forgiving, and to be fair, we have yet to hear of a single legitimate customer being turned away. Even when Microsoft was within its rights to deny activation as a result of terms in the EULA, a simple phone call was often all it took to resolve the dispute. Pirates have been taking advantage of Microsoft’s generous nature for years now, and new reports are suggesting they are looking to close down a few of the loop holes with Windows 8.
One of the godfathers of PC gaming, AMD, sweetened the deal on some of its Radeon graphics cards by making an offer gamers couldn’t refuse: buy the card and get a digital copy of DiRT 3 for free. Unfortunately for AMD, rather than drumming up interest and shooting Radeon cards to the top of the sales charts, the offer turned into more of a “horse head in the bed” affair after hackers pilfered 3 million activation keys.
After the whole iPhone 4 antenna fiasco, you'd think Apple would be a little reluctant to start flinging mud. You'd also be wrong. During Apple's San Francisco event yesterday, Steve Jobs used part of his time on stage to call into question Google's activation numbers, albeit not directly.
"We think some of our friends are counting upgrades in their numbers," said Jobs, presumably directed at Google's Eric Schmidt, who last month announced Google was activating over 200,000 devices a day. "We think we are ahead of everyone."
In responding to Jobs' accusation, a Google spokesperson got right to the point.
"The Android activation numbers do not include upgrades and are, in fact, only a portion of the Android devices in the market since we only include devices that have Google services," a Google spokesperson told CNN.
If we're to believe Google, then not only was Jobs wrong in his assertion, but the number of Google Android devices could conceivably be higher than the 230,000 Apple devices Jobs says are activated on a daily basis.
Whenever we recommend a build list for new systems, we inevitably turn to Windows OEM editions for the OS. They are bit for bit just as powerful as their retail cousins, but may require a bit of telephone tag with Microsoft when upgrading and you were stuck with nobody to call if you need support. Overall the experience wasn't so bad given the discount, but an important, albeit subtle change in the Windows 7 EULA could permanently alter this recommendation. The specific clause found in prior OEM editions of Windows is as follows:
"OEM system builder software packs are intended for PC and server manufacturers or assemblers ONLY. They are not intended for distribution to end users. Unless the end user is actually assembling his/her own PC, in which case, that end user is considered a system builder as well."
As you can see from the above passage, prior versions clearly made allowance for those that assembled their own system, sadly, this is no longer the case in Windows 7. Assuming this isn't a mistake (and when do lawyers ever make mistakes), then Windows 7 OEM editions can legally only be installed on machines you intend to sell. I suppose you could always pawn off your new machine to a family member for a song, then politely ask them to return it, but Microsoft clearly wants to push more home users over to the retail edition.
You can still buy OEM editions as easily as before from online retailers such as Newegg, but if your moral compass points true north, you'll need to buy retail editions on new systems you aren't selling from now on. Will this stop you from using OEM editions?
It has long been said that software activation merely inconveniences and punishes honest customers, while pirates rarely have to deal with the same restrictions. It was true in the past, and it has been proven true again today with new reports from the pirate community claiming that the Windows 7 online activation has been successfully bypassed (yet again). Not only do those using the new crack not have to activate, but they don't even need a CD key at all. The crack apparently nullifies sppcompai.dll, and even takes care of those pesky popup reminders that would normally keep nagging you to activate.
The most unfortunate part of this story however, is the fact that the crack seems to take advantage of the leniency of the activation mechanism which was tweaked in Windows 7 to try and reduce false-positives or accidental activation errors. We can only hope that Microsoft's response to this hack will be even handed, and not encourage them to tighten up the activation process so much so that it makes it harder on legitimate purchasers or upgraders.
Have you had any "unfortunate" experiences with online activation? Feel free to share them after the jump.
Just like with Vista, Windows 7 will offer users a 30-day grace period before requiring a product activation. And also like Vista, the grace period can be extended up to 120 days, a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed yesterday. To do so, users will have to "reset" the countdown timer with the familiar -rearm trick.
"You can run the -rearm trick a total of three times," said Woody Leonard, a contributing editor to Windows Secrets. "If you perform a -rearm at the end of each 3-day period, you end up with 120 days of full, unfettered Windows 7 use, without having to supply an activation key."
The -rearm trick will work with any version of Windows 7, from Basic on up to Ultimate. To extend the trial to four months, here's what you need to do:
Click the Start menu and select All Programs, Accessories, and right-click the Command Prompt and choose Run As Administrator.
Apple has begun offering a $30 iTunes Store credit for iPhone 3G S buyers who ran into trouble activating their new a device, a result of overloaded servers despite early indications that it would be smooth sailing. Here's the email that was sent out:
Dear Apple Customer,
Thank you for your recent Apple Store order. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience caused by the delay in your iPhone activation.
We are still resolving the issue that was encountered while activating your iPhone with AT&T. Unfortunately, due to system issues and continued high activation volumes, this could take us up to an additional 48 hours to complete.
On Monday, you’ll receive an email from Apple with an iTunes Store credit in the amount of $30. We hope you will enjoy this gift and accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay has caused.
Thank you for choosing Apple.
Sincerely, Apple Online Store Team
At first, the launch seemed to being smoothly, partially a result of Apple releasing the OS 3.0 update early. But as the day went on, some customers trying to activate their new phone received a message saying it may take up to 48 hours to complete. Some, like Kevin Mobley, a software performance expert at The Ian Thomas Group, warns that Apple's brand image might suffer from this and other similar problems.
"Going forward, as Apple presumably gets deals with other carriers and grows the iPhone user base, they'll have to determine if iTunes is really the best solution for activation," Mobley said.
Earlier this week Microsoft was slapped with a $388 million verdict in a long-running patent infringement case against Uniloc.
The lawsuit claims that Microsoft’s means for activating products (such as Windows XP, Office XP and Windows Server 2003) infringed on a patent that Uniloc already owns, but Microsoft claims that they will appeal this verdict.
“We are very disappointed in the jury verdict,” wrote Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans. “We believe that we do not infringe, that the patent is invalid and that this award of damages is legally and factually unsupported. We will ask the court to overturn the verdict.”
Here's what Microsoft is saying about the glitch (via ArsTechnica):
We've had some reports over the last few hours where customers have been receiving errors when requesting Windows 7 Beta product keys. We can confirm that we are having trouble distributing Windows 7 Beta product keys right now. Since Windows has a grace period built in before a product key is required, please don't hesitate to download and use the Beta without the product key. We will post information here as soon as this is resolved.
Like ArsTechnica, we'll also be keeping an eye on this problem and will let you know when it's solved. Join us after the jump and let us know what's good, bad, and ugly about the official Windows 7 beta.
Apple’s ingenious anti-hacking strategy for the iPhone launch – the phone must be activated in-store - resulted in long queues outside stores, as customers waited for their new iPhone 3G phones to be activated. But the iTunes and AT&T servers connived against the eager customers and crashed. However, the bedlam has subsided and now activations are going along at a canter.