Microsoft Wants Longhorn Shots Pulled

Microsoft began a surprising effort to remove any unofficial screenshots of its next-generation operating system, code-named Longhorn, Wednesday. The move raised questions as to whether or not the company is attempting to do damage control over increasing criticism of its latest preview build of the new version of Windows.

The effort was apparently expansive and included long-time supporters and evangelists for the platform, even those who have been exempt from Microsoft's non-disclosure agreements in the past. Company representatives e-mailed several sites pointing to an often overlooked portion of the beta licensing agreement that says no screenshots are allowed to be made of the software. Many sites were quick to comply with Redmond's demand.

The controversy started last night after a blogger lunch at WinHEC, Microsoft's yearly conference for Windows hardware developers. Although WinHEC is usually limited to only credentialed journalists, this year Microsoft had sent special invitations to Windows enthusiast sites and well-known bloggers.

The discussion heated up in the WinHEC press room and one attendee asked why Microsoft would implement such a policy. Chris Pirillo of the technology site Lockergnome reportedly remarked, "because it looks like a--," referring to the rather bland appearance of Longhorn. Pirillo further expressed his frustration in his Web log, saying the Longhorn demonstration was "far from impressive, and left me NOT wanting more - but wanting to walk away altogether."

Several high-profile Windows enthusiasts have expressed disappointment with the new Longhorn build, even calling it a "step backward" from last year's public release.

Some have publicly challenged Microsoft and have refused to take down the Longhorn shots. "I am a legitimate member of the trade press and would never have agreed to an expensive trip to Seattle if I knew that Microsoft was, for the first time, mysteriously not letting people post photos of a publicly-released Windows build," complained Paul Thurrott, most commonly known for his WinInfo newsletter and WinSuperSite enthusiast site.

Mary Jo Foley of Ziff Davis' Microsoft Watch seemed to agree. "I think it's time Microsoft rethought its policies regarding Windows betas," Foley told BetaNews. "When Microsoft releases any kind of build to a large group of testers and they are not under NDA, it seems like they should be allowed to post any and all screenshots and to do thorough reviews of these beta releases. There is no justification for Microsoft believing that this kind of information should be kept secret."

At the end of the day, by going after those who promote its products Microsoft's actions could prove more detrimental to the future of Longhorn than the exposure of pre-release screenshots. "Microsoft has handled this situation extremely poorly, and it's not appreciated," Thurrott wrote Wednesday morning. "Way to throttle back the enthusiasm even further, guys."

Microsoft representatives were not available to comment by press time.

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