Microsoft to Require Authenticity of Windows for Downloads
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
Last year September Microsoft launched a pilot program called the "Windows Genuine Advantage" Program (read my article about it). According to Microsoft, they were hoping that some 20,000 customers would opt-in to use the program, which basically is a check to see if your copy of Windows XP isn't pirated.
According to Microsoft, every year, millions of consumers and businesses worldwide are hurt by counterfeit software that they have purchased unwittingly, and many companies that sell legitimate software have difficulty competing with the artificially low prices offered by software counterfeiters. Counterfeit software puts users at risk of receiving an inferior product that may present security risks, be missing code or contain malicious code.
According to research, the cost of software piracy exceeds $29 billion per year world-wide. 36% of users worldwide run pirated software and around 22% of PCs in the US use a copy of Windows that is not genuine. Often the users are unaware that they have been sold pirated software.
"Software piracy costs customers, software vendors and national economies billions of dollars every year. The best way to fight software piracy is to ensure that users recognize and receive all the benefits of genuine software," said Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client Business at Microsoft. "When our customers participate in Windows Genuine Advantage, they will know they have easy access to updates, added-value software offerings and other benefits of genuine Windows XP, not the uncertainty and risks of counterfeit software."
Microsoft announced that well over 5,000,000 users have opted-in to the program since last year September, and, as most of us expected, they announced that the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program would become a required check, instead of a voluntarily check.
Beginning February 7, users using Norwegian, Czech and Simplified Chinese language versions of Windows will be required to run the WGA check before they can download software from the Microsoft Download Center Web site. Previously only selected software has been included in the WGA program, but most Windows content on the Download Center will (from February 7) be included in the pilot program.
Later this year, Microsoft will expand the content on the Download Center and Windows Update reserved for genuine customers to include all content. Microsoft had previously stated that critical security updates would remain available for pirated versions, and they are keeping their word; critical security updates remain available to users through Automatic Updates.
Microsoft will also add twenty additional languages (including most European languages) to the opt-in WGA pilot on the Download Center, in addition to the current languages: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese-Hong Kong, Norwegian and Czech.
Microsoft also announced that it would be starting a pilot for customers who discover they received a pirated copy of Windows XP to easily acquire a genuine copy. This pilot would start with the Norwegian, Czech and Simplified Chinese language versions of Windows, but would most likely be expanded when the WGA requirement would become mandatory for other language versions.
Microsoft also noted that it has commissioned TÜV-IT, an independent German security auditor to test how well Windows Genuine Advantage protects customers' data. TÜV-IT has confirmed that Microsoft does not collect any personal information or process any data that would allow Microsoft to identify or contact a user. It has also confirmed that Windows Genuine Advantage can be used safely on sensitive systems and that it does not interfere with any software programs and, therefore, it does not conflict with data protection laws.
At the same time Microsoft also announced some additional "benefits" (they like to call it "incentives") for users of genuine Windows software who take part in the program, including these:
- Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows
- Winter Fun Pack 2004
- Fifty percent off a selection of MSN Games by Zone.com
- Six-month trial of Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
- Fifty percent off hosted Windows SharePoint Services
- Fifty percent off Microsoft List Builder service
- Thirty percent off the new Microsoft Office Outlook Live service
I don't know about you, but I don't find that particularly interesting. Microsoft continues to tell us that they lose money to pirates, so by using WGA they should be reducing those losses. So I would like to see them lower the cost of Windows.
Look at it this way: You can get Mac OS X for $129, and they give you a good break if you order a five-client Family Pack, which is priced at $199. Makes Microsoft look real ugly when they only offer a $10 discount on additional licenses! (I mentioned that way back in 2002, it's still valid today)
So if Microsoft wants to show us that WGA reduces piracy, they should reduce the price of their software, that would make legitimacy more attractive to quite a number of users I would guess.
Give your comments on this article.
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