In an effort to shed the controversial image of its anti-piracy program, Microsoft has decided to use the arrival of Windows 7 to rebranded its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation system.
The company said it is renaming it to WGA "Windows Activation Technology" because the name more accurately reflects the way the technology works, according to comments on the company's website.
WGA, which Microsoft introduced as an add-on to Windows XP in 2006 but built directly into Vista, checks to see, through a variety of ways including product activation, if someone is running a genuine copy of Windows.
Microsoft launched WGA as part of a widespread crackdown effort against software counterfeiting and piracy that it has undertaken in earnest for several years. Many users griped about WGA when it was first introduced, especially because of early bugs that would deem genuine software counterfeit, forcing one user to write a work-around for the glitch and irking many others.
They also complained about a feature of the tool that shut down many functions of a version of Windows if it is discovered to be counterfeit or pirated. To its credit, Microsoft responded to the outcry, fixing bugs and tweaking features. Now, the software uses a series of pop-up alerts to remind people their software is found to be counterfeit.
Microsoft unveiled the name change for WGA on its press website in comments made interview-style by Joe Williams, Microsoft's general manager of Worldwide Genuine Windows. In his comments, he said the reason for the name change is that WGA was developed in Vista and now Windows 7 is "fundamentally different" from the original program that was an add-on to XP, although the goals of the programs are the same.
"The guiding principle is to enable the customer to know when the software they are using is genuine and licensed and help them to do something about it if it's not," he said. "However the technology used in Windows Vista and Windows 7 ... consists of new code and the latest methods for protecting Windows in ways that can only really be achieved with the components that are built in to both Windows Vista and now Windows 7."
Williams added that Microsoft has improved the activation tool in Windows 7 with support for virtualised images and volume-activation for multiple operating systems to take into consideration new business scenarios that it did not think of or were not prevalent when Microsoft first introduced the technology.
Microsoft released one of the last milestones for Windows 7, Release Candidate 1, last week, and many expect a final release of the software in October.