The disingenuous “genuine”

February 21, 2007

Following on from Friday’s musings over Microsoft’s use of “Unspeak”, here’s the next instalment:

“Genuine”
This one actually makes some sense. Not a lot of sense, but since Microsoft have (as we saw earlier) settled on referring to unlicensed software as “counterfeit”, it’s logical that they’d refer to licensed software, bought through their approved channels, as “genuine.”

But genuineness (as it applies to goods) isn’t something that can be bestowed upon or removed from a product by mere licensing: it’s a function of something’s provenance. If I’m running Windows Vista as written and released by Microsoft, it’s the genuine article regardless of whether I paid for it. Conversely, if I write my own window manager and sell it to you as Windows Vista, it will never be the genuine article, even if you go to Microsoft and buy a Vista licence.

As with “counterfeit”, the intention is transparently to falsely imply a substantial difference between licensed and unlicensed software, whereas in reality the distinction is strictly legal. Microsoft further tries to blur the issue with its “Windows Genuine Advantage” scheme — which I’ll talk about next time.

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