Microsoft just rolled out a new program last month requiring customers to verify that they're running legitimate copies of the Windows operating system before they could use Windows Update Services provided on their Web site.
The Windows Genuine Advantage 1.0 program is Microsoft's latest effort to stop people from pirating its software. When users log on to Windows Update, Microsoft Update for Windows or the Microsoft Download Center, a non-invasive program is run on their computers to verify that their Windows operating system is genuine. If it is validated properly, users can download updates or new content at will.
Microsoft has been testing this program since last September, and has validated more then 48 million systems so far, according to David Lazar, director of Genuine Windows for Microsoft. As of July 26, validation has been mandatory for all users.
When a user is notified he has a counterfeit copy of Windows, he's given the option of contacting Microsoft to get a free replacement copy or purchasing a new one at a discounted price.
To get a free replacement version of Windows, customers must submit a counterfeit report to identify the source of the software, provide a proof of purchase and send in a counterfeit CD of the software. If they don't have all the required information, customers can still submit a counterfeit report and receive a copy of Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional at discounted prices, explained Lazar.
Microsoft is the largest target for software piracy, and as such, the issue has become a major one for the software manufacturer.
According to recent studies, it is estimated that more then one-third of the distributed copies of Microsoft software are counterfeit. Even more astounding is the fact that the same study found that 35 percent of all worldwide software is pirated - 22 percent being done right here in North America.
Bulls-Eye on Their Back
Other major software vendors - like Adobe Systems, who make popular programs such as Acrobat and Photoshop - as well as companies like Intuit, who make Quickbooks and TurboTax, are taking the cue as well.
Though these companies are not as advanced as Microsoft, they require users to "activate" their software after installation. If the wrong code or serial number is applied, the software will not work.
Toward that end, Microsoft has initiated a Web site (www. howtotell.com) that provides customers with information on how they can tell whether or not they have a genuine copy of Windows.
As an end-user, it's ultimately an individual's responsibility to make sure he or she is using legitimate versions of software. The failure to do so will only take more money from a customer's pocket, and cause even more pain or aggravation when he or she tries to update any software.
Michael Trantas is the CEO of e-Safe Solutions, Inc., and can be reached at: email@example.com .