Microsoft’s Latest Anti-piracy Efforts — I like it

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Here’s what they’re doing these days to fight against illegal copies:

Several dozen users of Microsoft’s XP operating system and its Office software took to the Internet today to say that their desktop backgrounds had begun turning black. The switch doesn’t render the computer unusable, but it undoes people’s efforts to personalize their computer screens with photos or designs. Many said they were able to restore their original desktops only to have their screens turn black again an hour later.

The users have run into one of Microsoft Corp.’s latest anti-piracy efforts. Its Windows Genuine Advantage software, installed via recent online updates, determines whether the software on the computer is legitimate or pirated. Users will be treated with plain black desktop if their computers fail the validation process. Meanwhile, a persistent desktop notification will pop up at the right corner, warning that the user may be a victim of software counterfeiting.

Why is this a good idea? First, it get’s the user’s attention. Second, it is not punitive, minimizing the PR backlash. Third, there is no permanent damage or loss of function. Fourth, it includes an opportunity to fix the problem.

Not bad at all. Past measures have usually been punitive (ineffective lawsuits and nasty stuff in the media), based on pricing (good idea also, although you really can’t compete against a price of zero), or related to education (public awareness campaigns – barf). This plan sidesteps all of those.

The one problem: like all technology solutions to date, some kid in Shenzhen will be coming out very soon with a patch/crack to rollback the security measures in the update and stop the campaign. Maybe it will take a few days, though, and then it might take another few days/weeks before the app is widely distributed.

Anyway, kudos to Microsoft, unless I’m missing something with this story. I hope MS enjoys this while it lasts.

2 responses on “Microsoft’s Latest Anti-piracy Efforts — I like it

  1. chinamatt

    Oh crap, I have a pirated version on my office computer that the previous teacher installed. Guess this means I’ll have to go to the IT dept. to get a real version installed…in Chinese.

  2. allroads

    seriously.. great stuff. I bet the team who developed this is laughing it up tonight.

    from an operational standpoint, imagine all the office workers and internet bar customers who are dealing with this.. and are telling the IT staff to fix it. I bet it is driving them nuts…

    double bonus points for MSFT.