Finally, and most depressingly, we all know this isn't going to inconvenience pirates one bit. Pirates love to break DRM. Figuring out how to circumvent this form of DRM is going to be the number-one focus of the underground online communities, starting today. This is simply a red rag to a bull. The only ones inconvenienced will be honest, paying customers.
EDIT: Ubisoft say.
"We are aware that there is a lively discussion with regards to our new online services platform that will be included in most of our upcoming PC games, and which gamers are currently discovering with the Settlers 7 beta.
As there are a lot of question out there, we thought you might appreciate some of the following clarification:
Ubisoft's number one goal is to provide added value that will facilitate and enrich the gaming experience of our PC customers. The Settlers 7 beta version is enabling players to discover that this platform empowers them to install the game on as many PCs as they wish, to synchronize saved games online so that gameplay can be continued from where they left off (from any computer with an installed version of the game) and frees them from needing a CD/DVD in order to play.
The platform requires a permanent Internet connection. We know this choice is controversial but we feel is justified by the gameplay advantages offered by the system and because most PCs are already connected to the Internet. This platform also offers protection against piracy, an important business element for Ubisoft and for the PC market in general as piracy has an important impact on this market. Any initiative that allows us to lower the impact of piracy on our PC games will also allow us to concentrate further effort to the creation and expansion of IPs for the PC - our goal is to deliver the best gaming experience to our customers, anywhere, anytime."