Microsoft has taken another step to clamp down on pirated software, announcing yesterday that it will require participation in its Windows Genuine Advantage program to get updates and downloads from its Web site.
The software giant did not go so far as to cut off users from its automatic updates, which means that even people using pirated versions can get security patches.
Microsoft started the program in September, asking for volunteers toregister. The company said of 8 million users, 5 million did so, surpassingits targets.
But the program will continue to expand beyond where it is now, analystRob Enderle told TechNewsWorld.
“I believe that by the time Longhorn is released, all of these offeringswill be turned off for anyone who doesn’t have a registered copy,” he said.”Eventually, anyone who sells software and wants to make money will have tohave something like this,” he added.
Enderle said that there have been cases in Eastern Europe of piratedversions of XP with malware embedded in them. This, he said, is adouble-edged sword for Microsoft and one where its Genuine Advantage programwill help it prevail.
“The bad thing is that the piracy is obviously a problem,” he said, “but thepositive thing for Microsoft is that if that happened with open source,there would be no easy way to get around the problem. In this case, aproprietary product has an advantage because it can be authenticated.”
Microsoft has also added software incentives to encourage XP users to signup. They include Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows, Winter Fun Pack 2004,a six-month trial of Office OneNote 2003 and discounts on select MSN Gamesby Zone.com, Windows SharePoint Services, List Builder and Office OutlookLive.
The proliferation of malware makes operating a computer without updates moreand more dangerous, Enderle said, but he added that many users of piratedsoftware were already running unpatched systems.
Minimal Security Woes
“I agree with Microsoft that up to now most of the folks knowingly using piratedsoftware were afraid to go to the update site, because they thoughtMicrosoft would catch them,” he said, adding that there’s no evidence thatMicrosoft ever tracked who downloaded the patches and updates.
Since manypeople using counterfeit products already did not patch them, the companysaid, the new measure is unlikely to cause security problems.
Microsoft’s argument is that pirated software makes it difficult forlegitimate business to compete on price and harms consumers who unknowinglybuy counterfeit, and sometimes inferior, software.
Enderle said the company is going after the pirates themselves, not theindividual users.”This is aimed at professionals. The casual user that’s doing this is alower profile problem than the professional who’s trying to sell it at ashop,” he said.
Microsoft has also begun a program to allow users in China, Norway and theCzech Republic who have counterfeit versions of XP to buy the software at adiscount.