Product activation, which Microsoft first introduced with Windows XP in 2001, is Microsofts way of requiring new Windows users to authenticate their copies of Windows. Microsoft has required users not covered by volume-license agreements to register their XP copies via the Internet or phone using their unique product keys.
As of next week, however, Microsoft plans to curtail the number of users relying on the Web to activate their copies of XP.
As of February 28, Microsoft will disable Internet activation for all Windows XP product keys located on Certificates of Authenticity (COA) labels that are distributed by the 20 top worldwide PC vendors. Microsoft will be relying on these PC makers to do the activation for users.
Microsoft sent a distribution alert to let its field sales force know of this change a couple of weeks ago. Tech blogger Aviran Mordo posted a copy of the alert to his Web site on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Microsoft officials acknowledged the authenticity of the alert.
Via the new XP product activation policy, Microsoft is hoping to eliminate piracy that occurs when product keys are stolen from COAs that traditionally have been placed on PCs by OEMs.
"Now, if you type a key into (the authentication mechanism) on the Web, it will activate and not tell you anything is wrong," even if the key is stolen, said Alex Kochis, senior license compliance manager with Microsofts Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partner group, and author of the distribution alert.
"This is our opportunity to tell customers that product keys may not have been obtained properly," Kochis said.