A new Windows 7, a new beginning, albeit only in name. Microsoft is going to label and call anti-piracy technologies for activation and validation built into Windows 7, and future updates of the technology for Windows Vista, as Windows Activation Technologies (WAT), instead of current infamous Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) and Windows Product Activation (WPA). Windows Genuine Advantage updates will only remain for Windows XP-based systems.

Windows Genuine Advantage, which used to comprise of two components namely WGA Notifications and WGA Validation, and has now normally combined into just one single update release (which many hackers have managed to crack the WGA), has drew heavy criticisms due to its draconian kill switch and punishment on validation or activation failure and high rate of false-positive validation results. For example, the kill switch auto log off users every one hour, and denied access to features such as Aero Glass, BitLocker and ReadyBoast, in what Microsoft called “out of grace reduced functionality mode” when users forget to activate within 30 days. Microsoft has been changing some of the WGA inner working in Windows Vista with Software Protection Platform (SPP), and has dropped some of the most notorious and annoying kill switch method used to remind users about non-activation or failed validation in Windows Vista SP1.

Windows 7 WAT further refines the SPP to make it less intruding and less annoying. Joe Williams, General Manager of Microsoft Worldwide Genuine Windows division said in press interview that “the customer’s experience of product activation and validation in Windows 7 are built off of our Software Protection Platform that we introduced with Windows Vista. We had two primary goals: first, to enable Windows to protect itself by detecting when attempts have been made to circumvent or tamper with the built-in product activation technology; and second, to improve the experience of activating by focusing on enabling the customer to activate the product easily and, when necessary, to understand and resolve any issues they might face.”

“While we have seen success with our implementation in Windows Vista, as evident from the lower levels of piracy, we also knew we could do better in Windows 7. For example, with Windows Vista Service Pack 1, if a PC was not activated during the login process, customers would periodically see a dialog box as a visual reminder they still needed to activate their copy of Windows. Within this prompt, they could choose to activate immediately or later. But the option to push the “activate later” button was grayed out for 15 seconds. Customers told us that while the prompt grabbed their attention, they didn’t understand why they needed to activate immediately and that the delay was annoying. In Windows 7 we modified this process: When customers choose to activate later they will see a dialog box highlighting how activation helps them identify if their copy of Windows is genuine and be allowed to proceed immediately without a 15-second delay. In Windows 7 we’ve made changes so that users will see more informative notifications messages and be able to more easily complete the tasks they need to.”

So, what’s confirmed to be changed is that user no longer need to wait 15 seconds before been allowed to click “Activate Later”. User can click right away to make the dialog box goes away, to immediately see another window explaining how activation can help him or her. And, of course, the reminder to activate is still a problem, where the dialog box is expected to continue to pop up and prompt you once in a while.

Other than cosmetic change such as removal of delay mentioned above, Windows Activation Technologies is likely to bring some meaningful change to enterprise and corporate administrators though, which likely make activation and validation easier for system and network admins, especially for environment with virtualization technology. The press statement stated that:

We also spent time thinking about how we could make activation and validation easier for enterprises. For example, we think IT professionals will appreciate support in Windows 7 for virtualized images and volume activation technologies. When Windows Vista was being developed, virtualization was primarily a server scenario, but today many companies have it in their production environment on both the server and the client. We listened and adapted our management tool for organizations by making them more easily available. When customers see and use the tools we’re providing to support Windows Vista and Windows 7 deployments, we think they will be impressed.