Microsoft to combat piracy with Windows 9 and DRM?

Microsoft Surface 2 running Windows 8.1

Earlier today I reported that Microsoft would be stemming Windows 7 development from 13 January 2015, putting the ageing, but still ever-popular OS into extended support, with Windows 8 mainstream support not far behind. Given that many consider Windows 8 to be the Modern equivalent of Vista and although it hasn’t failed in the same way Vista did, it didn’t make nearly the impact that Microsoft had hoped for in the consumer space. Windows 9 promises to fix up many of the issues that users have taken with the OS and I was really looking forward to it.

That is, of course, until I read rumors from a reliable leaker about the new activation system said to come in Windows 9.

Microsoft today is still the same Microsoft that announced always-online restrictions and new ways of game trading on the Xbox One last year that only benefited Microsoft and the game publishers, essentially eroding the second-sale market, before they were forced to about-turn on many of those decisions or ideas. For all the screw-ups that the company went through in the run-up to the November 2013 launch of the Xbox One, that side of the company has now seemingly realised that gamers just aren’t that gullible.

But don’t think that this can’t change at the drop of a hat, because it can and it will. It’s as easy as flipping a switch for these guys because they now subscribe to the idea of software as a service (SaaS).

It seems that the same mentality has now leaked into the Windows group. A report by Betanews says that one of their Russian sources, known as WZor (who has had a good track record for accurate leaks), has acknowledged that Microsoft is chopping out the 16-character alphanumeric keys for their licensed software. Instead, Windows 9 will now require an account with the Windows Store and, just like Apple, will sell new copies of the operating system online through the store.

According to the source, the reason for the change in activation schemes is because of rampant piracy in China, a market they are keen to capture with more modern versions of Windows. WZor claims that the retail and OEM channels will still distribute Windows 9 in the same manner as before, but with a catch – thanks to the proliferation of machines running the UEFI BIOS as well as featuring support for Safe Boot, activation keys will be done away with completely.

“It’s assumed that the activation of products distributed via ESD-RETAIL channels will be more tightly associated with a specific PC and that activation will be done when user will log in to Microsoft Store,” writes WZor. “Activation key won’t be given to user and he won’t need to enter key manually.”

He continues;

“If user will want to change his PC or reinstall/restore system (not on OEM PCs), he will need to download specific ESD-RETAIL distribution in a special format and then burn it on DVD or flash media using special wizard. With this new type of BIOS, large OEMs will download distributions for “bare metal” and deploy systems without need of having boot disks. It similar to method Apple uses now. Although it’s  planned to implement this feature only on hardware manufactured by Microsoft and large manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, etc. Also this method will be used on mobile devices, tablets, smartphones, etc.”

“Installing ESD-RETAIL systems on new hardware or restoring system on the old one, will require to “detach” old installation from Microsoft Store, and only after that, it’ll be possible to activate new system.”

Now all the nay-sayers who claim that the Xbox One DRM won’t be re-activated again need to sit up and take notice at what’s going on here. The same rules (still rumored, mind you) for Windows 9 apply as they did for Microsoft’s plan for Xbox One games in the retail sector. There are alarming similarities between the two systems:

  • Both only use a disc as a data payload mechanism.
  • Both optionally have software that can be downloaded from the internet instead.
  • Both need to activate or unlock the software on your account that you’ll have created on Microsoft’s servers.
  • Both need an active internet connection to proceed with installation of the game or software.
  • Both systems require you to “unattach” the license for the software from your account before they can be re-sold (Xbox One games) or installed on another machine (Windows 9).
  • Both systems leave the door open for time-based access to the software (Adobe Creatve Cloud currently uses this same distribution model).
  • Both systems require you to register the software along with your personal details on Microsoft’s servers.

They are turning more and more into Apple. Walled gardens; locked-in software stores; software licenses tied to accounts; restrictions on second-hand software sales; the ability to deny software vendors access to APIs and the Windows Store; ET-phone-home software activation mechanisms… it’s almost enough to turn me to running Linux and keeping a Windows 8.1 install just for games.

The ball is in your court, Microsoft, but I sincerely hope that this course of action isn’t taken. You’ll just force more people to Windows 7 or Linux instead.

Source: Betanews