Alex Kochis is the Director of Product Marketing and Management in the 'Genuine Windows' bit of Microsoft. Which means he knows a thing or two about the 'product activation experience' when it comes to Windows 7.
Specifically, he knows a thing or two about product activation for the Windows 7 Beta. Ah yes, now that it is more than 30 days after the Beta became broadly available you can imagine that there are going to be some product activation issues hitting the headlines. That is almost a given, to be fair. Which is probably why Microsoft is fire-fighting in advance of the flames.
Writing on the official Windows Genuine Advantage blog Kochis first addresses the small matter of Microsoft no longer offering the Beta for download, and answers the question on the minds of those people who have a Windows 7 Beta image sitting around but have not yet installed it? No problem, product keys for activation will remain available from the Windows 7 Beta site.
Things get a little more interesting when Kochis reaches the bit about that 30 day period of grace expiring for Beta users and what happens if they still have not activated the product. Whether you think it a good or bad thing will depend largely upon your own previous experience with Vista I suspect, but Kochis admits that "while we've improved it in a number of ways it is based largely on the experience that is part of Windows Vista SP1."
Which means that it will attempt to activate itself automatically after three days of use, if that option is selected during the setup process, and then drop messages in the system tray reminding you that you have not done so should activation be unsuccessful. These activate now messages will appear every day, if you do the ask me later thing, until day 27 when they come at you every four hours. Oh deep joy.
Wait until day 30, then it is an on the hour every hour message assault I am afraid.
Kochis continues "If you do not activate the software within the grace period you will receive persistent notifications, including a message from the system tray every 60 minutes that reminds you to "Activate Windows Now", a persistent desktop notification that Windows is non-genuine, a non-genuine message that appears when the Control Panel is launched, and the desktop will be set to a plain black background. While you can change the plain black background to any background you choose, if changed the background will reset to a plain black background every 60 minutes. This experience will continue until the Windows 7 Beta is activated. Also, you will not be able to receive optional updates from Windows Update unless the copy of Windows is properly activated."
The good news is that you can always attempt to change the product activation process for the final release by way of joining in the customer feedback process as Kochis admits that "the beta isn't necessarily the final experience that will appear in the released product and that based on feedback some of the specific elements of the product activation experience could change."