Why Consumers Won’t See “Mac Genuine Advantage” Anytime Soon

by James R. Stoup Oct 23, 2006

Windows Genuine Advantage is a system developed by Microsoft in an attempt to thwart piracy. And with Vista, WGA gets even more pervasive. With its insane restrictions I have no doubt it will be received with open arms by a public desperately seeking for more copyright protection in their lives. Why, I constantly struggle with copyright-related guilt. Pirated music, movies, TV shows and so much software! Sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night when I imagine an unlicensed copy of Windows being installed on an unsuspecting PC. But I shall sleep better once Vista comes out and saves us users from ourselves.

However, a few bloggers have hinted that it is only a matter of time before Apple follows suit. Their logic goes something like this: When Apple’s marketshare reaches X (where X is whatever magic number their dog predicted that day) then Apple will have no choice but begin locking down their OS and crippling it with intrusive anti-piracy measures. Because that is the only way to ensure people buy OS X.

Now, in the pre-Intel days of yore (my how long ago it seems) this wasn’t really an issue. Because even if you illegally copied OS X then you still could only run it on an Apple computer. So, even if Apple took the hit by losing out on 1 sale of their OS, they won big by gaining a hardware sale to offset it. And since no one could easily build their own Apple-compatible PC they were safe.

Things have changed a bit since then I’m afraid. Now, it is difficult (though easier than it once was) but still possible to load OS X on a non-Apple piece of hardware. This means that piracy could still theoretically happen, but is currently far too small a factor to warrant investing large amounts of resources fighting.

But things become so much more different if Apple starts to license OS X. If they do that then they move away from their current model of selling hardware to Microsoft’s model of primarily selling software. And if they make that shift then they will be subject to all of Microsoft’s problems, including rampant piracy.

So, this brings up the question, “is it worth it?” Is it worth the benefits of licensing OS X (cheaper hardware, more customization, wider selection) if one has to also accept the drawbacks of things like Mac Genuine Advantage, registration codes, calling support to enable your computer and all the rest of the WGA nightmare. To me, the answer is a resounding NO. Maybe one day I will change my tune if Microsoft can prove that their system works. But I wouldn’t count on it.



  • Perhaps Ben is referring to the “My friend has Windows so I can just copy <software titles> from him” phenomena.

    I knew a lot of people during the Windows 95/98 days who, when I asked about their purchase, would respond “No one else I know own a Mac,” referring specifically to their new found “software availability”. I don’t have the same window on the XP piracy world because I’m not in college anymore.

    It’s not that piracy doesn’t exist on the Mac, but the attitude toward software piracy seems to be a little less blase on the Mac side… Perhaps because we’ve had to poke, prod and beg publishers so often over the years to take a chance on the Mac platform, we’re more hesitant to hurt their sales when the finally do come over.

    But I digress.  I’m inferring from Ben’s statement that he means that if all Windows users had to pay for all their software, they might be less inclined to re-purchase Windows since they wouldn’t be able to pirate from friends (or work)... and therefore, the Mac platform might be more appealing on a cost basis.

    I do still know a lot of people with MS Office on Windows… and I know the majority of them took it from work and did not pay the $250-ish price tag.

    Would they have still bought a Windows box if they weren’t guaranteed a “free” office suite? (or other ‘warez’...) Perhaps.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 24, 2006 Posts: 243
  • It’s not that piracy doesn’t exist on the Mac

    I wouldn’t suppose that Mac software is any easier or harder to crack than Windows software.  And if OS X had the lion’s share of the market, it would have the lion’s share of the piracy.  As it happens, the reverse is true.

    But does it follow then that Windows dominates the market because it has the most pirated software or is it the other way around?  I’d argue that it’s most likely the other way around.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 24, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I never claimed one platform was easier or harder to crack. However, the ubiquity of pirated Windows software makes the platform more attractive for the budget conscious who is not above stealing software.

    Ben’s implication seems to be that perhaps more people might not choose Windows if the “free” software availability were less.

    I don’t know whether that would be true, but I do personally know people who didn’t consider the alternatives because they knew they could get some “free” productivity software from work or games from friends.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 25, 2006 Posts: 243
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