Typically on this blog I post about issues closely related to WGA. In the interest in providing a broader context of the space in which WGA lives, I will broaden the scope of my posts and this blog somewhat. I'd like to kick off that effort today by announcing something that is exciting for me and my team. This post is about one of the other investments in time and dollars our team engages in to protect Microsoft products, our customers and our resellers from counterfeit Microsoft software. This particular project is one that I happen to be responsible for, so if you have feedback on it you'll know it's going to the right place!

We're now in the process of releasing a significant update to our "How to Tell" site, aka http://www.howtotell.com/ and www.microsoft.com/howtotell . The purpose of the site is to provide information to customers, resellers and anyone else about the latest physical anti-piracy features released with our products. The most widely distributed and frequently updated features are found on the various versions of the Certificate of Authenticity (or COA) and on the edge-to-edge holographic media, both CD and DVD. (image below)

Retail COA

This release marks the eighth major update in the site's history and includes some features I'm pretty excited about launching. The whole site has been updated with a new interface that has an updated look and feel, and the page real estate has increased to 1024x768.

Because of the ongoing nature of our work on the physical anti-piracy features (necessarily so because people are trying to counterfeit new features as soon as they are released), we've added an RSS feed. The feed will let people know when new site features are launched or when anti-piracy features are updated or added to our products.

We have also added about 200 product entries to the catalog, so we're up to about 600 products now. The catalog is as big as it is because each product may have a different set of anti-piracy features depending upon how it is sold. For example, products sold at retail typically have a retail COA, while major software products such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office will come on CDs and DVDs with an exclusive technology known as edge-to-edge holography. But products sold through OEMs or through the volume licensing channel may come on different media or have different COAs. (image below)

DVD hologram

Of all the changes, one gets me a little misty-eyed. We're finally taking down both the Windows Validation Assistant and the Office Validation Assistant. The WVA was a prototype for WGA; it was the first tool launched that offered a web-based validation that could help find evidence that a copy wasn't genuine that otherwise might be hard for the average person to find (such as bad or leaked product keys, etc.) The good news is that we're replacing the WVA with the Windows Comparison Guide (WCG) and the Office Comparison Guide (OCG). These guides offer much of the same functionality as the WVA did by walking users through a quiz that helps them match the anti-piracy features of the products they have, but without the web-based validation. For that we're pointing people directly to WGA at www.microsoft.com/genuine.   

In addition to these changes, there are a number of other feature updates and additions. If you'd like to learn more or receive alerts about features or content updates, I suggest you subscribe to the RSS feed (http://www.microsoft.com/resources/howtotell/rss/en/rss.xml ).