Click Here!
Article Sections: | Internet Marketing | Web Design | Web Development | Business | Internet and Businesses Online | Self Improvement |  
>> Home > Web Development > Computers & Internet

Microsoft Product Activation

By Richard Lowe
Posted Monday, December 6, 2004

Let's see if I've got this straight. Microsoft bolts together an excellent office package by purchasing programs from many other companies (or just purchasing the companies outright) and improves those products tremendously. They put an incredibly high price on the product, and in spite of that price manage to sell enough to more-or-less own the market. Admittedly, the product is excellent, so good, in fact, that it is ruthlessly copied by people all over the planet. In spite of the copying, Microsoft manages to eek out a few tens of billions of dollars on this product suite alone.

After numerous releases, the product has finally come close to perfection with Office 2000. In fact, it's so close to perfection that the only significant "features" of the following version are smart tags (which no one seems to want and are not implemented very well anyway) and product activation.

Now it turns out that there really is not any reason for anyone in their right mind to upgrade their Office suite from 2000 to XP. I've looked closely at the new release, and I could not sell my boss on spending several hundred dollars per copy - there is absolutely no return on investment of any kind. And as far as the home version is concerned - why on earth would I want to change? The Office 2000 suite already contains everything I could ever possibly want from this kind of product plus about 2000% more.

Naturally Microsoft has figured this out and has taken steps to remedy the situation. They have decided, in their infinite wisdom, that we shall upgrade whether we like it or not.

You see, businesses are being forced to upgrade through changes in support and licensing agreements. It does not matter that not a single person in my position at any company that I know of has any plans to upgrade to Office XP at any time in the immediate future. We have to purchase the upgrade almost immediately or we may have to pay outrageous fees to upgrade in a few years. Since it's a pretty good bet that the newer operating systems will not run older versions of the Office suite, we are pretty much being forced to upgrade because, well, we don't have any choice.

Obviously Microsoft's biggest problem with home users is convincing them to install the product on one and only one computer system. Heaven forbid that someone purchase a product and actually install it on two computers that he owns - it doesn't matter that he paid over $479 ($239 for the upgrade) for a glorified word processor, a spreadsheet program and some other things he will probably never use.

To prevent this travesty of justice, Microsoft has created product activation. What this means is you purchase the product (in this case, the Office XP suite) and install it on your computer. Now you get to run it 50 times or so before it more or less stops working. You now have to activate the product, which means you let it "phone home" over the internet. You get to do this on one and only one machine.

If the machine changes too much, the product stops working and you may have to do it all again. After too many changes (I think it's two), the product will no longer work at all until you physically pick up the phone and call Microsoft and get a, get this, 50 character activation key.

What on earth is Microsoft using for brains? Here you've got someone who actually purchased their product in spite of the high price and you make it difficult for them to install the thing? On top of that, if they have the gall to want to also install it on their wife's computer, then you force them to go out and buy another copy?

This is (excuse me, was) a loyal customer who plunked down some hard earned money for an office suite which is priced significantly more than the competition. Keep in mind that this person could have bought a much cheaper product like StarOffice, paid a lot less and got every single feature that he could possibly want. He chose Office because he wanted Office, and he was willing to pay extra to get it.
And now he gets slammed across the face.

But what about software piracy? This product activation scheme does absolutely nothing to prevent piracy. Believe me, the hackers and crackers had warez copies posted to their sites before the product was even released! You think some silly activation scheme is going to stop these people?

I know, the news has been full of stories about places like China, which reportedly makes millions of illegal copies all of the time. Do you think this silly little thing is going to stop them? I'll bet they had the product activation removed even before the hackers.

What should Microsoft have done? In my humble opinion, they should have created an upgrade that was worth the trouble and price of an upgrade, to begin with. Office XP doesn't even come close. On top of that, how about creating a "home license" which allows copies to be legally made on any computer in a single home? Charge an extra 20% for it if you have to - or better yet, just allow people to make those extra copies on their wife's computer system.

What product activation does is two things: one, it is designed to convince everyone that the upgrade has some value. Otherwise, why would Microsoft bother to work so hard to protect it? Second, it hurts the home user, who now has to make the choice: purchase multiple copies of office using very hard earned money, purchase a different product (such as StarOffice), or get an illegal copy.

Personally, I'll be checking out the competition. This, by the way, is something that I would never have dreamed about a couple of years ago. In my opinion, the Office 2000 suite is by far the best tool of it's class on the market. But is it worth so much that I'd pay two or three times for it? Hardly. No, let's see, where can I get a demo copy of StarOffice? Perhaps WordPerfect or Lotus has improved in the five years or so since I looked at them last? Let's see...

About the Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at ( - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.wledge.


Click Here!



  Articles are submitted to EDN and licensed from various content sites.
  To report abuse, copyright issues, article removals, please contact [violations (at@)]

  Copyright © Evrsoft Developer Network. Privacy policy - Link to Us

Contact Evrsoft