Microsoft tweaking Windows Genuine Advantage to boost anti-piracy
Microsoft makes another anti- software piracy announcement, declaring that it will be enhancing its anti-piracy engineering, education and enforcement efforts through the expansion of the Windows Genuine Advantage program, which checks the authenticity of a user's software and provides software updates.

The Windows Genuine Advantage program began as an optional pilot program available to users of English-language versions of Windows in September 2004. Microsoft has stated publicly that the program's primary purpose is to protect consumers who have inadvertently purchased counterfeit software from an inferior computing experience. The forthcoming changes announced now are not major ones, but are intended to deepen the program further, and prepared user for a shift from the voluntary opt-in system that exists today to a compulsory system that will be introduced later this year.

"In the second half of 2005 we will make authentication required," said Elliot Katz, senior product manager, Windows Client, Microsoft Canada. "It will be required that people have their machines authenticated to access Windows updates and the download centre."

One of the changes involve other languages being brought into the program. Twenty new language versions of Windows XP, including Canadian French, will be added to the pilot program on the Microsoft Download Center at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads

Users in three languages will be required to participate in the pilot program -- Norwegian, Czech and Simplified Chinese. That's not related to any connection between users in these countries and piracy, Katz said.

"The idea is to get a broad sample of languages, for test authentication in the pilot, to see if things work properly."

The other new element announced is new software incentives to entice Windows users to take part in the program, including Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows, Winter Fun Pack 2004, thirty per cent off the new Microsoft Office Outlook Live service, and for the business user, a six-month trial of Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 and a SharePoint services hosting offer.

"The announcement is essentially a goodwill message," said Michelle Warren, analyst at Evans Research Corporation. "It builds on Microsoft's commitment to CAAST (The Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft) and is aimed at educating -- mainly consumers, but also the commercial market." With the plan to make authentication compulsory in the second half of 2005, Warren suggested that deepening the program at this time was also being done in part to lessen the shock value some users may experience.

Microsoft is also emphasizing that even after the voluntary system ends, all users will still receive critical updates, particularly those relating to security, to try and prevent threats from getting a strong foothold.

"Even when we go compulsory we will still allow critical updates for everybody," Katz said.

Katz said that response to the pilot so far has been positive.

"We did not expect the acceptance we are getting," he said. "We expected the numbers to be much lower and the negatives much higher." He added that most Microsoft partners have been pleased with the measure.

"The legitimate channel is very supportive of this. It puts the playing field back where it should be. Unscrupulous resellers use counterfeit software to their advantage in a price-competitive marketplace."

Source: eChannelLine Canada