Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn Server to reduce Piracy

Today Microsoft announced the Microsoft Software Protection Platform, which are new technologies to help Microsoft fight piracy, that will arrive in Windows Vista and Windows Server, Longhorn, my nickname in college. j/k The technology includes improvements in how they validate software, activate software and how the software acts when tampering or hacking is detected.

PressPass: What is the scope of the piracy problem around the world for the software industry?

Hartje: Piracy is one of the most significant problems facing the software industry globally. According to a report published by the Business Software Alliance a leading software industry forum 35 percent of all software installed worldwide during 2005 was pirated or unlicensed. That represents US$35 billion of industry losses in 2005 alone. While larger companies can still operate in the black, this piracy rate has a significant impact on the thousands of smaller organizations, from software publishers to software and PC resellers, that depend on the health of the software ecosystem to survive.

The only assumption that is wrong with this is that everyone who installes pirated software would buy it if they didn’t have an illegal copy. No way is this even close to being true. When I was younger and could not afford software, it didn’t bother me to try out stuff that I wouldn’t be able to buy anyway, and I’m sure most people are the same way. Now that I am older I buy everything I want to use, because I can afford it. What Microsoft and these other companies need to watch are the ones who install illegal software on systems that they sell, and are making a profit on pirated software. I’m not saying they should over look the normal user, but saying that all software piracy cost the industry 35 billion is crazy.

One of the things the Software Protection Platform enables is enhancements to the genuine experience in Windows Vista, thereby differentiating it from the non-genuine experience. Customers that use genuine Windows Vista product should expect, and will get, an enhanced set of features that will not work on non-genuine or unlicensed versions of Windows Vista. Customers using genuine and licensed copies of Windows Vista will have access to Windows Aero and Windows ReadyBoost features, as well as full functionality of Windows Defender and extra optional updates from Windows Update. Computer systems that do not pass validation will not have access to these features, although they will still have access to critical security updates. Aero offers Microsoft’s best-designed, highest-performing desktop experience and is available in Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate. ReadyBoost lets users use a removable flash memory device to improve system performance without opening the computer to install additional memory. Both are key features that a user of non-genuine software will quickly realize are not running. Windows Defender helps protect a user’s PC against pop-ups, and security threats caused by spyware and other malware.

At least they will still allow users to get the critical patches not matter what, those users that are not patched hurt everyone, not just themselves, as they can become part of a botnet, or help spread viruses, and lord knows what else.

Ed Bott of the Microsoft Report weighs in here, he has documented many, many problems with Windows Genuine Advantage, the precursor to these new technologies.

My head practically exploded when I read this sentence describing the new, improved punishment regimen: “Windows Vista will have a reduced functionality mode but one that is enhanced.” Enhanced reduced functionality? Orwell would be proud.

The most chilling part of SPP is its new code to detect tampering. As Lindeman explained to me, “If the Software Protection Platform determines that the core binaries of your system have been hacked with, you will get a notification that operating system has been tampered with. Reinstallation is the remedy.” And the clock starts ticking immediately. When an anti-tampering warning first appears, you have three days to reinstall or otherwise fix your copy of Windows Vista or shift into reduced functionality mode.

That last part is pretty scary, three days? What is someone’s machine is hacked, Microsoft is going to protect them by going into reduced functionality mode. Sounds like the volume licensing is really going to be a pain in the butt, what is the reason everyone should upgrade to Vista, isn’t it supposed to make everyone’s lives easier and not just line Microsoft’s pocket?

He reports in another post about WGA validation problems with Windows XP and volume license keys, which are used by pirates when they can get them because they didn’t require validation.

This week, the WGA Validation Problems forum is awash in reports from customers in corporations and at universities that volume license keys (VLKs) are suddenly being reported as blocked.

The problem was the result of an issue on the Microsoft server side, and it is under investigation

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