As part of its ongoing battle against piracy, Microsoft Corp. has announced activation of its Windows XP operating system will no longer be supported over the Internet.

Starting February 28, the company said, customers who want to re-install Windows XP would need to call a customer service representative to activate the operating system.

This measure will not affect consumers or corporate users of Windows XP with legitimate licenses and authentication certificates, according to Elliot Katz, product manager, Windows Client for Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont. He said those who have Windows XP loaded on machines purchased from authorized resellers or manufactures such as Dell, Toshiba and IBM would also not be affected.

The Windows XP system pre-installed on OEM machines doesn’t need to be activated and users are never asked to do so.

Katz said Microsoft’s new tele-activation program is meant to identify software pirates who attempt to activate unauthorized copies of Windows XP with stolen authentication certificates or license numbers. Until now software pirates used these certificates or numbers – often stolen from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – to activate illegal copies of Windows XP.

That loophole, Microsoft said, is now closed.

From February 28 if someone tries to activate a copy of Windows XP using a stolen number, the online activation wizard will interrupt the process and inform the user that he or she must call Microsoft. A customer representative will then determine if the product is legitimate, and if not, what needs to be done.

Microsoft would not say how much financial damage is caused by piracy.

The Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) estimate 35 per cent of software applications in Canada were pirated in 2003.

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