April 08, 2013

An (unexpected) defense of Microsoft Store...

I know I had a lot of fun bashing Microsoft and their Online Store last week, but being a fair and level-minded individual, I feel that I do need to say some things in their defense.

While they failed to obtain my business for the University 365 offer (a blunder that they will surely regret for decades), a quick read of the MS Office license revealed that, as a proud owner of the Home and Student version, I can install it on one more PC.  Which is what I promptly did (can't beat free!).

Unfortunately, the smooth sailing ended here.  In blind defiance of the above-mentioned license, the installed program refused to authenticate, and threatened to disable itself within a month if I did not provide it with a new license key, which, as we all know, costs bags of money.  Having read the The License, I was fully confident in my self-righteousness.  There was no way I was going to pay for something that was already mine.  I did the unthinkable.  I picked up my phone and called the Verification Hotline.

The Verification Hotline is the last resort for people that want to authenticate a Microsoft product, but for one reason or another can't do so over the Internet.  It was well after 7pm when I called, so I half-expected to be kindly asked to call back the next day.  Fortunately, these expectations were misplaced, and I was treated to a warming chat with... a computer.  To proceed with verification, you need to enter something like 64 digits (through the keypad!) to identify your install.  It's difficult to convey the rush of adrenaline as you power towards the last couple of digits.  I've never diffused a bomb, or issued a launch code for an ICBM, but I guess those experiences would come pretty close.

After all that, I got through to an operator.  Finally, a chance to plead my case...  in Japanese.  Great.  After a long and thorough discussion about when and how I installed The Product, the operator agreed to activate my installation.  To do that, I had to enter another missile launch code into my Office install, as she was reading it out.  Another 64 digits or so, and my efforts would finally bear fruit.

My call got cut off after 10 digits.  Game over, man!

Unable to control the fury, I redialed the number, and mashed the keypad until an option to talk to an operator was presented.  I had naively expected that somehow, the person I was talking to before would be there, and we could pick up where we left off...  Alas, that was not to be.  The voice on the other side of the phone was cold and distant.  "I'm afraid you'll have to start again...", she said apologetically.

Like I mentioned earlier, I'm a fairly persistent guy when I need to be.  I persevered.  Entering the 64-digit launch code a second time through was nowhere as painful as the first.  I had the thought that by the time I'd have gone through the process another 3 or 4 times, I'd have the whole thing memorized.  It's really no big deal -- back in the good old days of Windows 95, I reinstalled the O/S so often I had the whole product key committed to memory.

While what I've written so far doesn't really do much in defense of the Microsoft Store, there really is a happy ending to all this.  After I entered my launch code a second time, I didn't have to jump through any more hoops.  The kind soul I spoke to the first time through pre-recorded the authorization code for me, and all I had to do was punch that into my Office install.  All done!  And it only took half an hour...

Furthermore, I had to recently stumble into The Store on an unrelated issue.  I was surprised to see something that I don't recall seeing before -- a live chat option.  You click on that, and get to talk to a real person.  Straightaway.  It's brilliant!  If only that was there a week ago -- I wouldn't have had to rant.  Oh well.  Better out than in, they say.