There’s been a lot of chatter in the press over the past week regarding Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10.
Microsoft is accused of calling home even once users have disabled the built-in personal assistant Cortana and Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO), a new feature in Windows 10 that uses a peer-to-peer network to download updates from other Windows 10 devices. WUDO has been criticized because it’s configured by default to distribute and receive updates to and from devices on the Internet, rather than just those on the local network, and therefore uses additional bandwidth.
A Look at Microsoft’s Services Agreement
A few days ago I stumbled across another story, which has mutated slightly during its short lifetime, which highlights a change in Microsoft’s terms and conditions, purportedly allowing Microsoft to disable counterfeit games and unauthorized hardware. The offending piece of text comes in an update to Microsoft’s Services Agreement. Section 7b states:
“We may automatically check your version of the software, which is necessary to provide the Services and download software updates or configuration changes, without charging you, to update, enhance and further develop the Services, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices.”
The agreement covers specific Microsoft services, which are listed at the bottom of the document, and these include Office 365 and Skype, both of which can be used on Windows 10. But despite that, Windows is now delivered as a service, Microsoft’s services agreement doesn’t apply directly to Windows 10, and the OS isn’t listed as one of the services covered by the document.
The agreement clearly references counterfeit games or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices, and I think it would be correct to assume games and hardware used in conjunction with the specific Microsoft services listed. But in many reports, this has morphed into ‘software’ in general; ringing alarm bells for many, who assumedly have reams of pirated software installed on their PCs.
Windows and Microsoft Office have both contained activation systems and mechanisms for ensuring software is genuine for many years, and that’s carried forward in Windows 10. The wording of section 7b in the services agreement most likely applies to Xbox games and hardware, and as such, there’s no mass surveillance program integrated into Windows 10 designed to disable pirated third-party software.
Software as a service (SaaS) — Helping to Reduce Software Piracy
While in the US, delivering software as a service is likely to reduce software piracy, because it alleviates businesses and consumers of the need to fork out large sums up front, and it’s just much easier than having to deal with pirated software, in some regions the idea of paying for software is still alien, no matter how small or insignificant the fee might be, especially in the consumer space.
Microsoft’s services agreement doesn’t spell doom and gloom for software pirates just yet, but hopefully the ease and convenience of using the Windows Store or other delivery mechanisms to purchase SaaS, along with the promise of continuous upgrades, will help to persuade those on the dark side to pay a reasonable fee for the software they use.