What a Week It Was for Microsoft!

Opinion: David Coursey breaks down Microsoft's very busy week-a week in which it renamed and unveiled its Longhorn client, implemented a mandatory version of Genuine Advantage, and met with the financial analyst community.

The last seven days have been busy ones for Microsoft. In a single week beginning last Friday, the company gave Longhorn its new name, took the wraps off Beta 1 of the new OS (but couldnt ship it), implemented a mandatory version of the Genuine Advantage verification program and met with the financial analyst community. So how did Microsoft do?

The official name for Longhorn—Microsoft Windows Vista—is a good one only because everything else I could think of was worse. Mary Jo Foley suggested Windows HD, which I like more than Vista. HD, however, is so obvious that Microsoft must have rejected it for some reason.

Microsoft also rejected names that project strength and security, choosing instead something that reflects improved data access and the user interface improvements built into the new OS.

Since Bill Gates told the financial analysts that security remains Job 1 at Microsoft, Id have expected the new name might have reflected this. This makes me wonder whether Microsoft isnt confident that the changes its baking into Windows Vista will actually change the security landscape. Or did Microsoft just want to avoid stirring up a hornets nest as hackers would surely try to make a fool out of the company for its claims? They will, of course, try to do that regardless of the name Microsoft chose.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Gates security promises.

Naming is often a no-win game, but at least by choosing Vista Microsoft accomplished one thing: It made me think Windows XP was a bona-fide inspiration.

A Genuine Challenge for Hackers?

Speaking of hackers taking on all-things-Microsoft: It didnt take long for the dark forces to claim they can spoof the Genuine Advantage license verification program.

If you visited Windows Update this week, you probably ran into Genuine Advantage, designed to alert users to pirated copies of Windows XP and then keep them from downloading anything more than security fixes from the Update site.

When I first encountered the Genuine Advantage program during its trial back in January, it didnt like my major-brand desktop and had me climbing under my desk to find the Microsoft serial number printed on the hologram label stuck on one of the corners of the system unit in order to prove I owned a legal copy of XP. As you would imagine, I was a little miffed by this experience.

I am happy to report that Microsoft no longer wants me to crawl and the Genuine Advantage verification process ran without problems on the three PCs in my office that have experienced it thus far.

As for the hackers, Microsoft probably doesnt care terribly if this first version of license verification can be spoofed. What they are looking for arent the professional pirates, but the people they sell to. These customers purchased hardware or the operating system separately and believe they have a legit copy.

Or maybe they understand they got a "good deal" and didnt ask any questions. Catching these users may lead Microsoft to some big-time pirates it hasnt been able to find. It may also encourage customers to demand legitimate copies of the OS with their hardware.

If the Genuine Advantage verification software really can be hacked, which I am betting it already has been, we should expect pirates to start distributing GA spoofing software with their machines, which will run without the user ever being aware of it. And the piracy game will continue.

Low Expectations

Something from the analyst meeting struck me as odd: Microsoft crowing about the success of the limited-functionality version of Windows being sold as part of its war against Linux in the developing world. Windows XP Starter Edition is available in six languages and has been introduced in 22 countries.

Given that much reach, I have to wonder why Will Poole, SVP of the Windows client group, was so happy about having sold 100,000 copies. Thats less than 5,000 units per country, hardly what Id imagine to be a big success. But, if Will says it is, I am sure its true.

Claria Update

With all the other news, Microsofts supposed plot, er, plan to buy spyware distributor Claria has sunk below the headlines. But, reading the coverage of the analyst briefing, where Microsoft talks about a new "best-in-class ad platform," made me think the half-billion-dollar check may already be in the mail.

Next Page: When will Vista get a break?