Microsoft Yanks Windows 7 for Netbooks Tool from Online Store

Microsoft decided to pull its Windows 7 for Netbooks downloading tool from its online store. While Microsoft declined to officially comment, the takedown is likely in response to allegations that code for the tool was lifted from a CodePlex-hosted open-source project. The original program, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT), was intended to help Microsoft capitalize on netbooks' enduring popularity among consumers.

Microsoft yanked its Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT) from the online Microsoft Store on Nov. 10, allegedly because the program incorporated code from the GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project. Microsoft originally introduced the USB/DVD Download Tool as a method for netbook users, some of whom lack DVD drives on their devices, to install Windows 7 on their machines.

The ImageMaster project, hosted on Codeplex, is described on its site as "a .Net C# application for reading and writing disc images." In a Nov. 6 posting on the Within Windows blog, Rafael Rivera described how he had a "weird feeling" after poking through the WUDT's internals that "there was just wayyyyyy too much code in there for such a simple tool."

Rivera then claims he did some more digging. "A simple search of some method names and properties ... revealed the source code was obviously lifted from the CodePlex-hosted (yikes) GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project. (The author of the code was not contacted by Microsoft."

According to Rivera, Microsoft may have violated ImageMaster's terms for use of the open source code, declining to provide "source code for their modifications to ImageMaster" and stapling on their own licensing terms, "further restricting your rights to the software."

As Rivera's blog posting gained traction in the larger media, it seems, Microsoft made the decision to pull the WUDT from the offerings on the Microsoft Store, although the "Windows 7 for Netbooks" page remains active without an "Add to Cart" link.

"We are currently looking into this issue and are taking down the Windows USB/DVD Tool (WUDT) from the Microsoft Store site until our review of this matter is complete," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a Nov. 10 e-mail to eWEEK. "We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

WUDT was originally intended to make porting Windows 7 onto netbooks a relatively easy process.

"For netbook users without DVD drivers, the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool will take an ISO image and create a bootable UDB device that can be used to install Windows 7," Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc wrote in an Oct. 22 entry on The Windows Blog, while cautioning that users would need to configure their netbook's BIOS before they could boot off that USB device or external DVD player.

Despite the popularity of netbooks-something that led Microsoft to create a Windows 7 solution for the devices in the first place-Redmond has publicly suggested that it would like consumers to gravitate toward higher-priced "ultra-thins" that can potentially run higher-margin versions of Windows.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during the company's annual Financial Analyst Meeting over the summer that Microsoft's manufacturing partners would likely begin introducing ultra-thin PCs with a higher price point than netbooks by the end of 2009.

"We want people to be able to get the advantages of lightweight performance," Ballmer told analysts, "and be able to spend more money with us."

A new survey by online electronics marketplace Retrevo, released on Nov. 5, suggests that the Windows 7 Starter Edition currently loaded on many netbooks may end up disappointing users. Of the 1,100 respondents apparently making up Retrevo's survey pool, 56 percent said they would "not be satisfied if their netbook came with Windows 7 Starter Edition" after being told the version lacked some features such as DVD Playback.