back to article Microsoft cuts back on Windows keys after pirates grab booty

Microsoft has blamed Windows giveaways and pirates plundering subscriptions for its decision to cut back the number of Windows activation keys it issues. The company told The Reg on Wednesday that its TechNet Subscriptions, Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), Software Assurance (SA) and Open …


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  1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Oh my

    "... leaving users with an improperly licensed and unsupported product."

    Has said spokesperson ever actually tried to get reasonable support from a properly licensed product? Perhaps more users would care if the current level of support for properly licensed products had actual value to the user. It could start by not kicking the can down the road to, for instance, the computer manufacturer who kicks the can to video chip vendor who hands it off to the HDD maker who kicks it back to Microsoft who tries a deep punt to the back of the memory chips or power supply seller, lather, rinse, repeat.

    1. Irongut

      Re: Oh my

      They don't mean that kind of support. They mean security updates.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh my

        Not strictly true. MS will issue crictical security updates to unlicensed and unsupported machines (see XP as an example), you just don't get all the other stuff e.g. .net installs, bug fixes etc.

    2. Quxy

      Be reasonable...

      Your support has to come from a single company with limited resources, so you can hardly expect the level of support and security updates that you get with Debian or Fedora.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Proof reader required at El Reg?

    "for activation codes had all been exploited by prates in the last few months'

    Here, let me proof-read that for you. pirate. There you go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Proof reader required at El Reg?

      You see the "send Corrections" button at the bottom of the article? Guess what that is for?

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Proof reader required at El Reg?

      I thought he mean 'pratts'.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "These changes help us mitigate piracy while helping us serve of legitimate customers."

    Indeed, a good serving of legitimate customers will help the bottom line.

    And why do they hand out so many keys? Are reinstalls from the stupid "Product Recovery Disk" not actually possible? I have to confess that I haven't had the pleasure to freshly "install" in recent times.

    1. Notas Badoff

      "And why do they hand out so many keys?"

      Because they wanted to get developers and resellers enthused about their products. You know, hands on and all that.

      But now they apparently think enticing developers is hitting the bottom line the wrong way. Which is topsy turvy backwards thinking.

      Microsoft's one big success, the real underlying success years and years ago, was its relationship with developers and resellers. Get thousands and thousands of developers developing for your platform, and your platform succeeds. Just as we've seen again recently with mobile.

      Oh dear, in times of shrinking prospects, the sales folk get the upper-hand? Just backwards...

      1. tempemeaty

        Re: "And why do they hand out so many keys?"

        ...and all the stuff about "...developers developers developers..." that monkey boy was dancing around stage so much about...all for nothing.

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge

      a good serving of legitimate customers

      Do you get chips what that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "chips with that"

        Of course. Any kind of chips you like, as long as they're x86 flavoured.

        WoA? Waiting on Apocalypse. It's a train crash.

    3. Rob Carriere

      Depending on what you're developing, you might well want to install on several different pieces of hardware (form factors, performance) just to see what hoops you have to jump through in each case.

  4. fishman

    Piracy solved

    Microsoft has figured out how to stop piracy - come out with software that nobody will want - Windows 8.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Piracy solved

      Sort of, but it didn't work with Vista did it? People just pirated XP instead (and in fact were forced to because MS refused to let them buy licenses for XP).

      No joke icon here, because it's no joke!

    2. tony trolle

      Re: Piracy solved

      the mad thing is Mac users are starting to like Win 8.....

      Oh dear.

  5. Gordon 11

    > Significantly lower prices have helped to undermine channel integrity and drive additional corruption. These changes help us mitigate piracy while helping us serve of legitimate customers."

    So, if Microsoft were to *increase* its prices then corruption (== piracy?) would go down.

    So why don't they do that?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like every other bloody thing

    So there is a problem with some nefarious types doing something bad. Solution? Let's penalise or make life difficult for the people who were actually paying/doing the right thing in the first place.

    Same old story. The pirates will continue but the legitimate users for whom the multi activations are a a necessity when setting up trials, proof of concepts etc, will suffer and have yet another hurdle set between them and any productivity. Perhaps it will tip the balance in favour in Linux. Unintended consequences etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like every other bloody thing


      Blame the Pirates - What are the software companies to do? Just let their product be ripped off left right and centre, or try to protect themselves? It's like with anything, the minority of arseholes ruin it for everyone else. Alcohol would be a good example, most people can deal with drinking sensibly, but there are a significant minority of people who can't handle it and behave like arseholes, requiring legislation that wouldn't otherwise be required.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Like every other bloody thing

        What was that whooshing sound? That was the point - being that legislation against drinking will only affect and inconvenience the already well behaved lawful drinkers, the arseholes will carry on as before.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Like every other bloody thing

          Err? That was my point. The well behaved are screwed over by the people who don't behave.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Like every other bloody thing

            But they aren't. They are screwed over by in this case MS, in the NAME of stopping the bad guys, but not actually doing anything other than frustrating the good guys.

  7. b166er

    Don't see how it would affect MPN members?

    They could just blacklist the key and the member.

  8. David Harris 1

    "Microsoft cuts back on Windows keys"

    Won't that leave a gap on the keyboard?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Microsoft cuts back on Windows keys"

      You only need <ctrl><alt><del> when using Windows

  9. Why Not?

    just hobble the software?

    Its Developer & Demonstration software. Hobble it or Brand it as such.

    Make it phone home, if its public address is wrong 2 days running (The subscriber sets up a DYNDNS type service at their main site) then advise the subscriber. If the location / number of units installed exceeds the license terms regularly then again flag it / block the offending. All of this can be done automatically.

    For travelling sales & consultants sell them a personalised £50-100 per PC smart card / Dongle to override the IP restriction for up to 7 days at a time. Or just sell them cheap licences for popular software

    Brand it Microsoft iridescent flashing Blue with the registrant's name and status all over it, make sure it can't be mistaken for anything other than development software. If the company using it incorrectly / selling it they are tight enough to avoid software licensing some of its employees and customers will probably look forward to reporting them. Especially if you offer cash!

    Partners will probably be happy to show their ID & partner status, the local estate agent may not be so happy.

    It should scream its identity like a crash repair loan car.

    All very simple to implement. They need to keep the developers involved.

    1. jason 7

      Re: just hobble the software?

      My other half reviews books and often gets pre-release proofs to read. One publisher changed the name of one character in the book to that of the reviewer they sent it to to make sure they were traceable if the book got out to the wider audience.

      Nice idea I thought.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: just hobble the software?

        A friend of mine is a movie producer, his pre-release DVD of his last movie had his name pop up across the middle of the screen every five to ten minutes.

        The trouble is that if MS do this, the people ripping off the software will just find where it's configured on the system and crack it.

        1. tony trolle

          Re: just hobble the software?

          Think your right, like with pirate XP the logo and black desktop popping up. Why not "TechNet testing" logos.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reasons to cut back number of activation keys

    "Microsoft has blamed Windows giveaways and pirates .. for its decision to cut back the number of Windows activation keys it issues"

    How about the real reason is a downturn in the number of Windows boxes being sold?

    Off Topic: If the Googleplex is to be forever refered to as `The Chocolate Factory', what do you call the campus over their at Redmond?

    1. Palebushman

      Off Topic answer

      Off Topic: If the Googleplex is to be forever refered to as `The Chocolate Factory', what do you call the campus over their at Redmond?


      The Pedlers Palace. Why? Because they have the fixes they know you need and will sell to you;

      At the price they know you will pay for a 'fix'. 'Scuse the pun.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Turd Spurter?

    The Devils Bowel?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Odd but somewhat understandable...

    On one hand I have to agree with some critical comments above; it seems as if MS is taking it out on their customers (fans?) while they should be going after the bad guys as well. What I personally don't get is that when you request serials they become assigned to your account. Surely it should be detectable if such an serial was activated on more locations or on "odd" locations (for example; I conduct tests / studies within 2 LAN's which are joined through a VPN. Thus some software will talk to MS (for activation and such) using IP 'A' and the other 'B'.

    Heck, I also have some software on my laptop which I primarily use for demonstrative purposes.

    Surely it shouldn't be that hard to keep track of serials and the IP's they are being used on ?

    But then again; I also think that the customers won't suffer as much as might be suggested here. Depending on what you're doing I think getting 2 (basic subscription) or 5 (professional subscription) serials is pretty decent. Also keep in mind that re-installing (and thus re-activating) also poses no issues. So its not as if you're severely limited in the stuff you can do with the requested serial.

  13. johnwerneken

    Now and then I willingly pay MS for something, as now and then I do HP, for both stand behind their product and services - although it is often the case that both together are not able to do any more than I can on my own. Their higher level staff are still fun to work with, and if I am willing to put in 24 hours, non-stop, so are they. BUT I have no reason to pay either a dime just to get a product; I have way too many ways to do that for nothing at all.

    I say this to illustrate that intellectual property is an oxymoron and that the whole idea of copy right is really a copy wrong. Yet clever and creative people deserve a reward lest we miss them. And these outfits in some ways DO know exactly how-to get that reward, which is to say, voluntarily, from WILLING customers. I can steal anything in the world if I wish, being defensive just ups the odds that I might chose to steal from you just for the entertainment value.

    Of course dumb people (owners, managers, lawyers, stock analysts, politicians, and most of my fellow travelers in the ruling classes) don’t know anything about anything let alone anything about this.

    ROTFFLMFAO I don’t need no stinking product keys.

  14. Magnus_Pym

    "Over the past few months, pirates have exploited these programs and systems to obtain free or lower cost genuine product and have then resold at significant profit margins"

    I wonder if there is any evidence that these 'pirates' resold at significant profit margins. In my experience stolen activation keys are usually being given away.

  15. Doug Glass

    "... had all been exploited by prates in the last few months..."

    Got to watch out for those prates [sic], they'll steal your monies and haz hamburgers.

    Must be Android of iPhoney spell check ... (what's that expression?) ... oh yeah, cock-up.

  16. Tidosho

    Only in the last few MONTHS?

    My girlfriend and I have been a member of MSDN & TechNet for a good few years for our programming and computer repair firms. Microsoft are claiming “Over the past few months, pirates have exploited these programs and systems to obtain free or lower cost genuine product and have then resold at significant profit margins"

    That's funny, I've been seeing people selling Windows TN keys on eBay for at least four years! I even caught my co director doing it last year on the Digital Spy forums with one of our other company accounts and warned him about it, as we were both paying together for it until I caught him again and made him do it alone.

    They reduced the number of keys a year ago to just 5 from 10 because of piracy, so this latest news is old and irrelevant. They need to start linking keys to accounts so when they get blocked MS know who is responsible, because people will sell the same key two or more times as they can be used several times on different machines.

  17. Chezstar

    Hey, I would be happy to have 5 keys...Technet Standard got dumped down to 2 keys from 10 keys months ago. This was about the time that they jacked up the price of Technet Pro by 1/3, which unfortunately meant I had to drop down to Technet Standard. 2 keys. Yay. I don't care about losing the enterprise side of things (I don't test for enterprise gear, I'm SMB mainly). But it means that I can't run more than 2 test servers for my clients at a time.

    If some of the software I test with wasn't MS only, I would be pushing some more of my clients over to Linux installs. But the software is MS coded, and requires word for letter merging, so I'm screwed there unfortunately.

  18. Phil Koenig

    The First Hit is Free

    A good drug dealer only gives away the initial sample. Once the quarry is addicted, it's bill-paying time.

    MS's market has matured now, the world is thoroughly addicted, so we can expect to see them pulling-back on the freebies.

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