A Kinder, Gentler Activation Scheme

Product activation is one of the thorniest issues in software today.

Product activation is one of the thorniest issues in software today. While license protection schemes have existed for decades, it wasnt until Microsoft embedded its infamous product activation scheme into Windows XP that customers felt these schemes had become heavy-handed.

Now Adobe is experimenting with implementing activation but is tweaking it so the consumer experience is still good. Impossible, you say? Adobes plan might work.

Activation is part of the Australian version of Photoshop 7.0. Adobe points out that all current license terms are unaffected. Whats different in the Australian version of Photoshop is that during installation, Adobe requests that users activate the product (see screen, left).

Like Microsoft, Adobe ties activation to a users machine. Unlike Microsofts plan, Adobe profiles only a systems disk drive, not the machines hardware setup. Therefore, even if a user changes a graphics card, a sound card and a motherboard, chances are the reactivation scheme wont kick in. More importantly, if Adobes reactivation does fire up, Photoshop wont lock out the user. Adobe provides a 30-day grace period. Microsoft provides a 60-day grace period on new installs, but the scheme locks users out once a system is activated and triggered again.

Adobe has implemented a time-based profile. If a user activates a product several times over an Adobe-defined time frame (the company wont reveal it), Adobe may require a new activation, but users can still use a fully functional Photoshop version for 30 days.

Activation is in an experimental stage now, but the company will likely implement it in forthcoming versions of Photoshop. Officials said it will take years for it to be part of all Adobe products, if it happens at all.

Revenue loss due to piracy is a huge issue. Its estimated that more than $10 billion in software revenue is lost every year. Activation will help curtail piracy among co-workers and friends, but Adobe says it still relies on law enforcement to curtail piracy by large criminal organizations.