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Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Microsoft Corp getting tougher on piracy

LIMITED VISTA The firm is taking steps to ensure that unlicensed copies of the next version of the Windows operating system will lose functionality over time


Microsoft Corp is cracking down harder than ever on software piracy as it tries to boost profits, but some say the harsh repercussions facing people who use unlicensed versions of its new Windows Vista operating system could spur a backlash.

The world's largest software maker said on Wednesday that people running an unlicensed copy of Vista that it believes is pirated will initially be denied access to some of the most anticipated features of the operating system. That includes Windows Aero, an improved graphics technology.

If a legitimate copy is not bought within 30 days, the system will curtail functionality much further by restricting users to just the Web browser for an hour at a time, said Thomas Lindeman, Microsoft senior product manager.

Under that scenario, a person could use the browser to surf the Web, access documents on the hard drive or log onto Web-based e-mail. But the user would not be able to directly open documents from the computer desktop or run other programs such as Outlook e-mail software, Lindeman said.

The crackdown shows how much more seriously Microsoft has started taking Windows piracy. The Business Software Alliance, a software industry group, estimates that 35 percent of software installed on PCs worldwide is pirated.

Microsoft said it will not stop a computer running pirated Vista software from working completely, and it will continue to deliver critical security updates.

Still, the much harsher tactics contrast to Microsoft's earlier anti-piracy measures, which have involved instituting tougher piracy checks for Windows XP users who want to get free add-ons such as anti-spyware programs. In most cases, these were seen as annoying, rather than debilitating.

Analyst Roger Kay with Endpoint Technologies Associates said Microsoft has a right to curtail illegal distribution of its software.

The new piracy measures, he said, "seem harsh only in comparison to how lenient it has been."

Nevertheless, Kay said he expects that the anti-piracy tactics will keep some people from upgrading to Vista from the current operating system, Windows XP.

"There will be an XP backlash, which is to say people clinging to XP in order to avoid this," he said.

Kay also does not expect the new piracy measures to be that effective against hardcore pirates, who have built de facto businesses selling illegal Windows copies. But he thinks it will stop some lower-level piracy.

Windows Vista also will include more sophisticated technology for monitoring whether a system is pirated. For example, the system will be able to perform some piracy checks internally, without contacting Microsoft, according to Lindeman.

Microsoft also is adding ways to more closely monitor for piracy among big corporate users, who tend to buy licenses in bulk.

Microsoft plans to take similar tough measures with the forthcoming version of its Windows server software, dubbed ``Longhorn,'' and to incorporate it into other products down the road.

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