Microsoft is to introduce a new system for fighting software piracy with its upcoming Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn Server operating systems.
The Microsoft Software Protection Platform is a collection of technologies that aims to do better at detecting pirated versions of Windows, and will also force unauthorised versions of its software into a limited-functionality mode, encouraging users to obtain a legal copy.
People using unlicensed copies of Vista will be blocked from accessing certain features, including a new interface design called Windows Aero, and software for fighting pop-up advertisements called Windows Defender, Microsoft said. The company has already used a reduced functionality mode with Windows XP.
Users with an unlicensed versions of Windows will also see a persistent reminder message in the corner of their screen, reading "This copy of Windows is not genuine."
The new software is bound to come under scrutiny. Microsoft's previous attempt to reduce unauthorised use of its software, Windows Genuine Advantage, was partially rolled back after it was criticized as "spyware" for stealthily installing itself on users' PCs and reporting information back to Microsoft.
Microsoft said the new technologies are necessary to fight software piracy, and said end users can also benefit because they are less likely to be exposed to faulty or compromised software.
End users installing pirated Vista copies, or who don't register their software using a product key within 30 days, will have their OS functionality reduced. The product key is an ID number assigned to customers for each purchase of Windows. The company said it will also be able to track more easily when products are activated with product keys that have been stolen from a business.
Regardless of the authenticity of their Vista copy, all users will have access to Microsoft security updates, the company said.
For businesses that use volume licence keys for Vista and Longhorn Server, Microsoft will introduce new, policy-based tools for activating those systems. The new tools, called Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0, won't be linked to Microsoft's software billing systems, the company said.
Windows Vista and Windows Server Longhorn - the code name for the next version of Microsoft’s server software - will be the first products to ship with the antipiracy technologies, but they'll eventually be used in more of its products.
Around 35 percent of all software installed worldwide in 2005 was pirated or unlicensed, Microsoft said, citing a figure from the Business Software Alliance, an industry group.
More information is at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/oct06/10-04SoftwareProtection.mspx