May 4, 2005 1:39 PM PDT

Microsoft plans to give some pirates a break

As part of its growing antipiracy campaign, Microsoft is testing a program that offers free licensed versions of Windows XP Professional to some customers whose copies are found to be bogus.

The move is the latest in a series of expansions for the Windows Genuine Advantage program, which Microsoft quietly launched last September. The program, which runs software that verifies whether a particular copy of Windows is legitimately licensed, is the linchpin of a campaign by Microsoft to boost the number of paying customers among the millions of people that use Windows.
Get our reporters'
take on what's happen-
ing in Redmond.

The Windows Genuine effort started as a purely voluntary program, but Microsoft has since been requiring validation for more and more customers who want to download software from the company.

In March, for example, Microsoft said it would require those who want to download a foreign-language pack for Windows to first validate their copy of Windows.

Starting Wednesday, customers in the United States whose copies of Windows XP Professional do not pass validation will be presented with the option of getting a free licensed copy. To do so, customers will have to fill out a counterfeit report with Microsoft and be able to provide the Windows disk they have as well as some kind of receipt for their purchase.

"Our goal is really to ensure that the complimentary offer is for people who really truly were unknowing victims of counterfeit," said David Lazar, director of the Genuine Windows program.

Those who don't have the disk or the receipt are eligible to buy a licensed copy online for $149. That's less than the cost of a full copy of Windows XP Pro but more than what customers pay when they get Windows on a new PC.

"At first glance it seems kind of self-defeating to reward pirates with a free licensed copy," said The NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin. However, he said it is an opportunity for Microsoft to show customers the benefits of its official software and potentially win them over as legitimate customers for future versions. Plus, it could help them track down those who are heading up piracy rings.

"Much as narcotics officers bypass the lower-level dealers to get at the kingpins, what they are likely trying to do is get at the distributors (of pirated Windows)," Rubin said.

Test program
For now, the Windows validation process remains optional for most customers, though sometime this summer, Microsoft plans to make such scanning mandatory for those who want to download software from the company's site.

Customers whose copy fails to pass inspection won't be able to get most Windows-related downloads but will still be able to get security updates, either by turning on Automatic Update or by manually selecting a particular patch. The Windows Update utility, which determines all needed updates and presents them for download, will only be available to those whose copy is found to be licensed.

But before taking the program that far, Lazar said, Microsoft wanted to test how the upgrade process might work. Hence the current offer, which runs through July 30. It is not clear what offer Microsoft will have when it exands the program.

"We knew that to fully implement the program, we would want an offer like this," Lazar said. "This gives us an opportunity to test it."

One of the things Microsoft is testing is a scanning tool that tries to verify that a customer who is upgrading to a legitimate copy of Windows already has all the right Windows files. The tool checks to make sure that all of the original Windows XP system files are present and not damaged, though Microsoft also sends a CD to customers and encourages those who suspect that there might be problems with their Windows copy to reinstall the operating system.

Customers check in
Analysts had worried that Microsoft might make customers completely reinstall Windows in order to convert to a licensed copy of the operating system.

So far, customers have appeared quite willing to let Microsoft check their copy of Windows. In the eight months since Microsoft began asking people whether they would be willing to test to see if their Windows copy was legitimate, a majority of those asked have gone along. Worldwide, 48 million customers have viewed a page asking them if they want to take part in the program, with 27 million people, or 56 percent, opting to do so.

Lazar would not say exactly how many bogus copies Microsoft has found, but he said the "vast majority" of machines are judged to have licensed copies of Windows. The software piracy rate is estimated globally at about 36 percent, and Lazar said Microsoft has seen piracy results similar to what it had expected.

The company has also been testing a paid-upgrade offer in China, one of three countries where validation is already mandatory. Lazar said "several thousand" customers there have taken the option of buying a discounted version of Windows, with XP Pro selling for roughly $150. The vast majority of systems in China run unlicensed copies of Windows.

Michael Cherry, a Microsoft analyst with market researcher Directions on, praised Microsoft for clearly communicating where it's headed for the program and for making sure it had the tools in place to properly verify Windows copies. At the same time, he said he wished Microsoft were running more ads that helped buyers spot fake copies of Windows before they made a purchase.

"This is all very good, what they are doing, but it's all very 'after the fact,'" he said. Some of the things that Microsoft uses to distinguish its own software, such as its "Certificate of Authenticity" labels and its hologram-labeled disks, are not that well-known to consumers, he said.

"I doubt that my dad knows what a 'Certificate of Authenticity' is," Cherry said.


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Maybe buying legitimate copies was a mistake.
I could have saved some real money by buying some of the many
counterfeit copies on the web.

I probably could have even saved more by not buying XP at all,
Win2K was running fine. The upgrades to XP have served no useful
purpose as far as I can tell.

Right now, that experience says that I'm not going to pay a penny
for any copies of Longhorn, legitimate or counterfeit.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You never known if you..
...going to buy( ___Longhorn___ ) mmm steak
in 3 years or more.
Posted by Willy Wonker (73 comments )
Link Flag
But it's pretty
Oh c'mon, everyone wants the XP upgrade because it's pretty ^_^
Posted by dinkelburt (14 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah But
I thought the same Earl. I should have XP off eBay from SE Asia, somewhere. I shouldn't have been a legitimate customer, spent all that money. I still have one machine running 2000 Pro, very nicely. My 98SE machine is happy too.

But notice the phrase "Customers whose copy fails to pass inspection" - that could include
1. Possessors of pirated software
2. Legitimate owner, who's registration failed
3. Anyone else, where the M$ inspection tool failed.

Ya know, I stand up against file sharing - I write software all day - and everyone that uses it pays. But, I do think we're losing any sort of reasonable vendor-customer relationship. People (apparently a LOT of people) are happy to use stolen software. Then we also have the advent of sneak-wrap - when a new term is invented to describe something, it sounds like a significant departure from what we had before.

Can't we all just get along - PEACE BABY :-)
Posted by (409 comments )
Link Flag
Why The Focus On Just The Windows OSes!!!
To the extent that one requires much more functionalities from middleware and other applications in a number of cases to complete the work at hand; and, the fact that Microsoft in particular did not appear to have had a focus in the past on importance of the "internet" (for collaborative and security enhanced solutions) then one needs to take a general approach to find out if the Windows environments currently meet their needs and will do so adequately in the future with regards to the growing requirements for XML and Web Services interoperabilities. How well will Windows and Windows based products communicate with alternative OSes and Applications that are present in the global marketplace?
Posted by (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One word: Money
Windows is a patched mess designed for the old pre-networking days of microcomputing. But zealots continue to believe in the Gospel of Gates because of the power of money.

Very few outside of the tech community even are aware that there are alternatives, but they are aware that MS stock is worth something, so they go with what they think is value.
Posted by (274 comments )
Link Flag
Can someone check if the clothes I'm wearing is legit?
People are willing to let Microsoft check out their computer? Most get Windows pre-installed from major OEM's so they don't have to worry if its legal or not.

Free Linux distributions don't ask you to do this. For more advanced computer users, its time to dump Windows, be more productive, and save cash.
Posted by rodnarms (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh Goodie!
Microsoft is now offering Windows XP at a special closeout sale price of only $149. You better get'em now folks, because only a limited number of these genuine certified copies will be available before the new version is released. After that, no more will be available forever, so you better hurry, hurry, hurry to your trusted Microsoft site and download your very own personalized copy before it is too late.
Posted by br77575 (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's really easy to stop piracy!!
...just provide world-class, no-nonsense, one-call support. We've been doing this for 26 years, and have NO trouble with piracy!!

It is impossible to hijack excellent support, and customers are more than willing to pay for good value received.

If you cheat on the customer relationship, such as FAILING TO PROVIDE MEANINGFUL SUPPORT, customers will take revenge upon way or another. Apparently MS has yet to learn this simple business principle...and it has indirectly admitted that 36% of its user base now considers the value of its product support to be zero.
Posted by landlines (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
tankĀ“s you jejeje:D
Posted by heryto (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Posted by COMPPROUK (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
yea there is alot of counterfeight going on i would say sometimes its ok to go private but its better to go to a real manufacturer .... Microsoft programmers are trying to resolve this but it is easyier said then done. I work for a company named comppro wich work along side microsoft programming although we do not licence our products under the terms of microsoft but make sure we obide by there licence

as a computer progammer my self id av to say that if we did change the code that we use to build such programs as XP VISTA and so on well you wouldnt have much of a screen to use other than command prompt if that heres just a quick example of what i mean

public sub .... this means the user uses it its public ok

private sub ...... this means you dont see it but you do use it ... its what your system runs of to boot up n so on

microsoft do try to make it secure as possible but at the mo it sum what impossible but still can be done duno how yet but it can sorry guys

so best thin to do for now is if you do go private revise on him or look for a certified seal if it doesnt have 1 send it back

go to a manufacturer e.g microsoft, COMPPRO, allume system's, and so on other wise your at great risk at buying counterfeight and anouther prob with doing this if they can counterfeight then theres a possibility they have messed with the code by overrideing the public sub if this is the case it quiet easy to add some code wich will kill your computer aka virus

just be carefull when buying if you do need any advice on computers feel 3 to ask and as 4 the lad that has xp n doesnt work properly get a back up disk (Software) for any setup you want ,XP,Vista n so on
reset and then press delete at run time browse through till you find the 1st boot and change dat to cd rom /cd/cdrive then reset again by pressing F10 itll then ask you to save just press enter reboot and wen it ses press any key to boot from cd press a key and itll work once your done reset and press delete itll bring up your screen again browse through again till you *** back to the 1st boot change it back to its original if you aint sure it ok to use ither HDD,HDD-0 or floppy press F10 and save and then itll work properly ok
Posted by COMPPROUK (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yo compre una PC nueva con marca no conocida, luego de usarla un tiempo dejo de funcionar la Media Player al solicitar la actualizaci?n me encuentro que mi Windows no es Legitimo el negocio desaparecio y
no tengo soluci?n fui estafado como otros tantos Argentinos que viven pagando parches al sistema, por el costo de un programa Windows Original xp pro sp3, y que nos hacen pensar en un sistema alternativo.- Gracias
Posted by agrotel (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.