The company unveiled plans to enhance its anti-piracy engineering, education and enforcement efforts by expanding the Windows Genuine Advantage program. Windows Genuine Advantage checks the authenticity of a user's software and provides access to popular software.
According to the Business Software Alliance Global Software Piracy Study, conducted by International Data Corp. and released in July 2004, 36 percent of the software installed on computers worldwide was pirated in 2003. Microsoft aims to reduce the impact of pirated software on legitimate software resellers and economies around the world, which lose nearly US$29 billion a year to pirated software, according to the Business Software Alliance.
The Windows Genuine Advantage was introduced as an optional pilot program to users of English-language versions of Windows in September 2004.
Response to the pilot program has far exceeded Microsoft's expectations, with more than 5 million people voluntarily taking part since the program began in September 2004. Based on feedback from customers Microsoft will expand the program from 7 February.
The company plans to add twenty new language versions of Windows XP to the opt-in pilot program on the Microsoft Download Center, and most Windows content on the Download Center will be included in the pilot program.
Norwegian, Czech and Simplified Chinese language versions of Windows will be required to participate in the pilot program.
Microsoft will create incentives to users to adopt the new program. Some software and services will be available free, or at discounted price. Users that qualify will have access to Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows, Winter Fun Pack 2004, 50% off a selection of MSN Games by Zone.com, six-month trial of Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, 50% off hosted Windows SharePoint Services, 50% off Microsoft List Builder service and 30% off the new Microsoft Office Outlook Live service.
Microsoft will begin piloting a legalization offer in the People's Republic of China, Norway and the Czech Republic for qualified participants who discover that they have been sold a counterfeit version of Windows XP. These customers will be offered a genuine version of Windows at a reduced price. All participants with counterfeit versions of Windows will continue to receive guidance on how to recognize genuine copies of Windows, how to seek redress from the seller, and how to protect their PC.
The program will extend from the second half of 2005, when visitors to the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update web sites will be required to participate in Windows Genuine Advantage to access all content. To help customers who may require more time to move to genuine Windows software, Microsoft is offering security updates through Automatic Updates in Windows, with or without Windows Genuine Advantage validation.