Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Microsoft to Kill Pirated Copies of Windows in Q4?

Ed Bott writes that Microsoft may be developing a method to turn-off illegal copies of Windows. Microsoft recently released a "patch" that validates the Windows license as part of their Genuine Advantage anti-piracy drive. Apparently Microsoft may have built a hook into the software that allows them to kill non-validated copies of Windows. Microsoft would not deny these intentions on the record with Bott and furthermore David Pollak writes that a Microsoft support representative told him that:
"In the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days is up and WGA isn't installed, Windows will stop working, so you might as well install WGA now."
I fundamentally believe that piracy is wrong but I'm not sure if this is the right way to fight it and this begs the question of whether or not Microsoft has the right to turn-off legitimate copies of Windows because their owners choose not to participate in the genuine advantage program. Piracy is a huge problem for Microsoft that some estimate to be just under 35% of all copies in use. Thus, I am sympathetic to Microsoft's campaign against piracy but this is clearly going to be a PR nightmare.

I agree with Bott's earlier post on the subject that it was wrong for Microsoft to include the genuine advantage patch as part of the automatic update system, which is designed for "delivering security updates right to your computer automatically.” Also, the genuine advantage patch does mimic the behavior of trojan malware by "phoning home," which has caused speculation as to whether or not the patch itself is spyware. Not using Windows Update (missing security patches) is one of the main reasons that viruses and worms are so wide spread amongst Windows users and this just gives skeptics one more reason not to try it. Furthermore, many users report problems with the Genuine Advantage patch. Others still report that the validation check is not 100% accurate and some legitimate copies are being identified as pirated. Personally, I have installed the patch and I haven't had any problems with it but I'd be pretty ticked off I had.

Yet, one positive benefit from a Microsoft crack down on piracy is that it could boost interest in open source alternatives like Ubuntu or Open Office.

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