After reading much of the coverage of WGA's latest release in the trade press and on numerous blogs recently I've seen people repeatedly ask why WGA is important or at all useful to PC users. I've also seen numerous places where it has been claimed that it isn't of any use at all. In the groklaw posting I discussed in my previous post the writer made a related comment when he asked:
They tell us that their purpose is to notify the user if a proper license is not in place. Why would the user care if they are running a validly licensed copy of the software?
I can say that without a doubt many customers do care if they are running legitimate, genuine and licensed software. I know this becuse we hear from customers frequently who discover the software on their system isn't what they were expecting. One reason it might not be what they expected is because they paid for it and expected a legimiate and licensed copy but didn't get one and didn't find out about it until they learned about it from WGA.
The BSA has said that the world wide piracy rate for PC software is about 35%. I don't know what it is for Windows because it varies by version, language, location and other factors but I think it's in that range though probably somewhat lower in the US. In addition to having a pretty high piracy rate if you think about it being about a third of all software is pirated, in addition to that many of the users of those unlicensed copies of software don't know that what they have isn't genuine. Given that users have varying degrees of awareness of the state of their software and given that some real number of those users got ripped off without knowing it, how can anyone say that a program like WGA is of no use to PC users?
WGA isn't just useful for customers to learn whether the software the have installed is genuine but it's also appreciated by the resellers that build and sell PCs. Prior to WGA honest and reputable resellers sometimes had a difficult time competing with unscrupulous and dishonest resellers because the dishonest resellers would load lots of software on a PC starting often with Windows yet selling the PC for a price so low it couldn't include the software. When the amount of software loaded would have cost hundreds of dollars to legally purchase and install this creates an unfair advantage for dishonest resellers and those willing to take advantage of creators of intellectual property and unsuspecting customers. For years the resellers that build and sell PCs have encouraged Microsoft to be more aggressive and to develop more effective technologies to combat software piracy. WGA represents a breakthrough in developing anti-piracy technologies for software that can help protect customers and level the playing field for honest resellers.