Microsoft Expands Anti-Piracy Program

Microsoft this week unveiled its plans to use the technology levers at its disposal to cut off downloads and other benefits for users of counterfeit software.

The first step is an expansion of an optional, anti-piracy Windows Genuine Advantage pilot program the company started for English-language versions of Windows in September. Windows Genuine Advantage is used to verify the authenticity of Windows software.

On Feb. 7, Microsoft will add 20 new language versions of Windows XP to the opt-in program on the Microsoft Download Center, where most Windows content will be included in the program. Entering the pilot program to access genuine Windows content at the Download Center will be required for Windows customers using Norwegian, Czech and Simplified Chinese language versions.

The new program isn't all stick, there's some carrot, too. Users who opt-in will have access to software goodies valued by Microsoft at $450, including Photo Story 3, the Winter Fun Pack 2004, a six-month trial of Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, and discounts on some games and services.

The next step will come in the second half of 2005, when visitors to the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update will be required to participate in Windows Genuine Advantage.

In addition to the obvious benefits to Microsoft's bottom line, Microsoft portrays the program as helping "customers avoid risks associated with counterfeit software." The company claims counterfeit software "may present security risks, be missing code or contain malicious code."

While Microsoft's use of the word "may" indicates those security threats are theoretical or at least only occasional, Microsoft left open the possibility of imposing a definite security risk on users of pirated software after 2005.

"To help customers who may require more time to move to genuine Windows software, Microsoft is offering security updates through Automatic Updates in Windows, with or without Windows Genuine Advantage validation," the company said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how much time those customers will have.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.