MS gives MSDN WinXP Beta 2 access after all

Web-based product key distribution arrives...

Microsoft mollified MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers at the tail end of last week by giving them download access to WinXP Beta 2 code. Microsoft also mollified The Register by pressing a CD into its hot little hand, but more of that RSN.

The MSDN move takes the heat off the company, which was being beaten up something rotten by subscribers. They pay serious money in order to get access to all the latest code, and had been expecting to get Beta 2 when they beta testers got it. Or at least by the time the preview program subscribers got it.* Or at the very least a couple of days after all the warez guys got it. So although they've got it now, they're unlikely to forgive Microsoft entirely.

The more important aspect of the release is however the mechanism. Microsoft was considering releasing the code to MSDN at the same time as it released it to testers right up until the last minute, but it didn't go ahead. The problem cited was getting unique product keys to subscribers - testers are issued with their own individual keys, and as MSDN subscribers don't have such keys, the beta test distribution mechanism wouldn't be much use to them.

This also goes for preview program subscribers, so actually making downloadable code available to them had to wait for the product key distribution mechanism to be rolled out. This however has now happened - MSDN people get a unique key from a Web page, then activate as specified.

So long as this works efficiently, The Register has a great suggestion. We put it to Microsoft reps in Seattle on Friday, and although they were for some reason unenthusiastic, we're undaunted, we think it's a runner. They should Open ISO Microsoft operating system and applications code.

Think about it; the essence of having a legal copy is having a legal product key, and registering the product via the official product activation procedure (according to our reading of the new licence agreements, using universal keys invalidates your licence, even if you've paid real money for the code). So it really doesn't matter where you download the code from, so long as you've bought a key. At a stroke, Microsoft could decriminalise all of those, er, enthusiasts who just can't stop themselves offering its code for FTP download. It'd have a similar effect on piracy as the decriminalisation of marijuana would have on the war against drugs.

Of course, it'd require that universal keys for products didn't exist... Ah, we think we see the problem. ®

* BTW, Register would-be preview program subscriber William H Spam III still hasn't received his email telling him the code's available - what is it with these guys?

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MS nixes MSDN WinXP Beta 2 downloads

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