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July 22, 2005

Microsoft Beefing Up Windows Anti-Piracy Program

Courtesy of TechWeb News

Windows users will have to prove they have a legitimate version of Windows starting Tuesday, July 26 if they want to download any software from Microsoft's site, a Microsoft executive in India told reporters there.

According to the "Hindu Business Line," Rishi Srivastava, the director of Microsoft's Windows client group in India, confirmed that Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), the anti-piracy program that Microsoft's been running in pilot form since September 2004. WGA, which is aimed at stemming the flood of pirated copies of its operating systems, requires users to verify they own a paid-for copy by entering a product number in an ActiveX control that appears before allowing downloads from Microsoft's Download Center. During the pilot program's run, Microsoft made validation optional, but as of July 26, said Srivastava, it will be mandatory. Previously, Microsoft has said it will lock out unvalidated users from retrieving files via Download Center and non-security updates through the Windows Update service.

Security, updates, however, will continue to go out to all, even those using pirated copies.

"Security updates are delivered automatically and are not part of WGA," a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed this week. "All users, with or without WGA validation, receive these updates through the Windows XP Automatic Updates feature."

The U.S.-based spokesperson, however, wouldn't confirm the July 26 do-it-or-else date for WGA, and would only repeat the "summer 2005" timeframe that Microsoft's stuck to since January.

WGA is of particular interest to Microsoft in overseas markets, where piracy is rampant compared to the U.S. and Europe. By the Business Software Alliance's figures, 74 percent of all software in India is pirated.

Microsoft's Srivastava argued that users are willing to buy the real deal if they're told they're using pirated programs. "Research has shown that as much as 50 per cent of the people [in India] using pirated software are willing to buy genuine software if they have the ability to identify it," he told the Business Line.

In comparison, piracy rates in the U.S. are a relatively low 21 percent, although the huge size of that market means losses are in the $6.6 billion, compared to, say, India's $519 million.

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