Vista SP1 to replace 'Reduced Functionality' with nagware

A service originally designed to compel unpaid Vista users to obtain genuine licenses is apparently being scrapped in Service Pack 1, to be replaced with a more "in-your-face" approach.

In a prepared Q&A released by Microsoft this morning, corporate vice president for Windows product marketing Mike Sievert divulged that Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM) -- a service that disables certain features of Windows Vista until the user activates the system, assuming she can -- will be scrapped in Service Pack 1. In its place will be something that reduces the user's experience instead.

"Although our overall strategy remains the same, with SP1 we're adjusting the customer experience that differentiates genuine from non-genuine systems in Windows Vista and later in Windows Server," Siever stated.

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"Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won't lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Windows Vista is not genuine and they need to take action."

Some press sources this morning characterized Microsoft's move as a "softening" of its piracy stance. But the likelihood that users will see their desktop wallpaper turn black every hour, along with a little "speaking bubble" bulletin explaining why -- as indicated this morning by the AP -- may provoke responses from some users that eclipse their response to User Account Control.

Last August, some Vista licensees were treated to a little taste of RFM after a problem with Microsoft's Genuine Advantage servers resulted in their copies temporarily being treated as invalid. Users were forced to log off after one hour, and some of Vista's special features were temporarily disabled, including its included games, its Aero Glass look and feel, and its ReadyBoost and BitLocker features for expediting and encrypting hard drive access, respectively.

It's the locking out from that latter feature which prevented some from being able to decrypt devices containing their personal or business data, at least until Microsoft could once again recognize their systems as genuine.

But for most users, the previous functionality reductions were merely a nuisance; and now, users may find them replaced with a new set of nuisances.

"As we go forward, we always want to be mindful of our customers and their experience with Windows, and operate the WGA program to be as responsive as possible to feedback we hear," Sievert stated today. "At the same time, it's important that we be consistent in how the program evolves in the future."

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