Windows Piracy Check Now Mandatory

Software pirates beware - Microsoft on Tuesday officially launched Windows Genuine Advantage, a program aimed at curbing the problem of software counterfeiting and enticing users to ensure their software is legitimate.

WGA now makes it mandatory for a user to verify the authenticity of Microsoft software on his or her computer before downloading updates through Windows Update, Microsoft Update for Windows content, and the Microsoft Download Center.

Critical security updates will still be made available to users with or without WGA validation.

"During the 10-month pilot of WGA, we have been very encouraged by the large number of customers -- more than 40 million in all -- who chose to participate in WGA," Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client Business at Microsoft said in a statement.

"It also became clear that customers want to take advantage of special offers reserved for genuine users, with the peace of mind that their software will deliver the features, options and performance they need."

To entice users to take advantage of WGA, Microsoft is offering $450 in software offers to consumers who participate. This includes discounts on MSN Games, SharePoint web hosting, and a 6-month trial of Office OneNote among other offers.

Users who may have unknowingly purchased counterfeit software would be eligible for a free genuine copy at no cost as long as they fill out a piracy report as well as provide proof of purchase and surrender the counterfeit CDs.

Customers who send in piracy reports would be eligible for a full copy of Windows XP Home for $99 USD or XP Professional for $149 USD.

Joe Wilcox, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, wrote in Microsoft Monitor Tuesday that WGA currently seems more about Microsoft's bottom line than the customer.

"The company has demonstrated sensitivity to customer reaction and put in place several reasonable Windows replacement options," he argued. "But I also see, at least at this point, the program being more about curbing piracy than rewarding legitimate customers."

But does it come down to Microsoft not trusting its customers? "Certainly for Apple, which doesn't require product authentication or validation and sells Mac OS X "family packs," maybe now would be a good time to re-emphasize the customer trust relationship," Wilcox said.

For more information on Windows Genuine Advantage, read the BetaNews interview with David Lazar, director of Genuine Windows at Microsoft.

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