product and solutions marketing manager, Windows Client for South Africa

Most of us are guilty of doing it at one time or another — installing pirated copies of Windows on our machines. While we were doing it, we were probably thinking to ourselves: ‘Well why shouldn’t I, I mean Bill Gates has enough money already hasn’t he?’

Well, while that might have consoled you at the time, the fact of the matter is that you were breaking the law, much the same as shoplifting really. Of course, until recently, Microsoft Corp. had no real control over the software piracy issue. In fact, research done by IDC revealed that as many as 36 per cent of users were running illegal software.

You may argue that the release of Windows XP brought about the product activation routine, but that still did not give Microsoft a means to properly validate and ensure that users were running authentic versions of Windows.

Hence the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage Program, a process whereby a user’s operating system is authenticated and, if legal, grants the user access to additional services, such as program upgrades and the like.

“The problem we had in the past is that there was no real motivation for Windows users to use authentic software, the pirated versions worked just as well as authentic versions, and at a fraction of the cost, or in many cases no cost at all,” says Jonathan Hatchuel, product and solutions marketing manager, Windows Client for SA. “The aim of the Windows Genuine Advantage Program is to reward users for using authentic Windows versions.”

Presently, the program is in its pilot stage, running from the Feb. through to the April 11, and those users wanting to download additional software from Microsoft, such as Windows AntiSpware beta, will be asked to authenticate their systems.

“This merely requires the user to download a component that checks the operating system’s authenticity and sends a response back to Microsoft,” says Hatchuel. “Once this is done and the user’s system is deemed authentic, the user will be able to access Microsoft’s download sites for software upgrades and the like,” he adds. “Users who skip or refuse the authentication process will still gain access to the sites, but will only be able to download critical patches.”

“When going through the authentication process, users will not need to pass on personal details to Microsoft. The Windows Download Key that is stored on your PC during the process merely matches the PC’s hardware profile with the 25-digit key located on the Certificate of Authenticity,” he says.

“Users must understand that the reason that we launched this program is not to try and prosecute fraudulent users, but simply to offer something more to users who spend the additional money on purchasing authentic software,” he adds. Users who skip or refuse the authentication process will still gain access to the sites, but will only be able to download critical patches.Jonathan Hatchuel>Text

“Also a lot of users do not actually know that they are using fraudulent software, and we hope that through the Windows Genuine Advantage Program we will be able to guide them on to the right track, and, through the process, hopefully track down the culprits distributing pirated Windows copies,” he concludes.

Microsoft’s Genuine Advantage only encompasses the Windows operating systems at the moment, but the company hopes to cover Office packages and games in the not too distant future.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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