The program, dubbed Get Genuine Windows Agreement (GGWA), plugs a hole in the company's antipiracy efforts, said Cori Hartje, the director of Microsoft's 18-month-old initiative to identify phony copies of Windows or instances of unlicensed use of the software.
"This fills in the entire picture," said Hartje. "Consumers who had been identified as running a counterfeit [version of] Windows could simply push a button and have the purchase made right then. But we didn't have a good way to programmatically address the same for larger-scale customers, particularly through the [reseller] channel."
GGWA uses Microsoft's standard volume licensing -- and therefore is designed for organizations that generally acquire the company's software through that venue -- to sell full licenses of Windows XP Professional. Most customers looking to get legal using GGWA would go through their existing channel reseller, Hartje said.
"We also wanted something like this as a turnkey for the channel," she said. "This way, resellers will be able to offer [their customers] Microsoft financing, for example, as well as other services, such as Software Assurance."
Hartje said she expects that most organizations using GGWA would do so not because they find counterfeit copies of Windows on OEM-sourced PCs, but because they have "mislicensed" systems. "After an internal review, a company may find it has, for example, 2,000 machines that it got 'naked.' And they need a way to address that."
In "mislicensing," Hartje explained, a customer misunderstands the licensing rules. They think they can purchase "naked" computers -- PCs sans operating system -- and then apply their volume licensing agreements to load Windows. "The regular volume licensing agreements like the Select Agreement or Enterprise Agreement have upgrades available for purchase, so there must be an eligible licensed copy of the Windows software already on the machine to be able to use the upgrade available in those programs."
Other companies might find they're running a large number of illegal machines if they misuse a volume licensing key or let it leak. When it identifies a leaked key, Microsoft invalidates it; subsequent activations of Windows, or in Vista and the upcoming Windows Server 2008, regular checks of Windows legitimacy, would then finger PCs as noncompliant.
"We needed to have options for our business customers so that it was easy to get full Windows licenses, to help customers who found themselves in an unlicensed situation," said Hartje.
GGWA is in addition to the still-available Get Genuine Kit (GGK) packages, which contain one or 10 XP Pro licenses, but it comes with several new provisions that strip away the anonymity of GGK. According to information posted on Microsoft's site, GGWA requires customers to sign a legalization agreement and make a commitment to legalize all out-of-compliance PCs. The legalization agreement also contains what Microsoft describes as an "audit clause." Microsoft officials were not able to immediately confirm this, but the clause would presumably be similar to the one in an Open Value volume licensing agreement. Open Value's audit clause lets Microsoft request an internal audit of all Microsoft software used in an organization.
"Enterprises who want anonymity can still purchase the Get Genuine Kit," said Hartje, "though that's cumbersome in large volume, with the packs showing up on the loading dock and having to be opened."
The new program offers Windows XP Professional licenses rather than Vista licenses, she added, because XP Professional is what's in widespread use. "XP is where we have the gap. It has a large installed base, and that's where [companies] are discovering [noncompliant] PCs."
In other words, stocking GGWA with Windows XP is not an admission that Vista isn't selling well to corporate customers. "Most people are now buying new PCs that come with Vista," she said. "And so they don't need to get another license."