Microsoft Details Vista Antipiracy, Activation Tech

Microsoft this week revealed how it will protect Windows Vista and Longhorn Server from software pirates. The upcoming OSs will utilize a next-generation version of the controversial Windows Genuine Advantage and Microsoft Product Activation technologies, rebranded under the Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative moniker, to limit the capabilities of pirated Vista versions.

The changes are described in a white paper Microsoft made public on Wednesday ( ). In the document, Microsoft describes its antipiracy technologies as "innovations" that "protect \[Microsoft's\] intellectual property and alert consumers to the presences of counterfeit software." But the antipiracy features in Vista and Longhorn Server go far beyond similar features in Windows XP. And given the false positives that have appeared during XP's lifetime, it's hard to know whether this latest antipiracy volley will do more than annoy customers and casual software thieves.

Cori Hartje, director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, admits the company is getting tougher on software pirates. "The upcoming releases of Windows Vista and Windows Server 'Longhorn' will be the first two products to ship with \[our\] new antipiracy innovations, counterfeit detection, and tamper-resistant features," she says. "Windows Vista and Windows Server 'Longhorn' \[have\] new ways ... to activate, validate as genuine, and behave when tampered with or hacked."

Those new behaviors are sure to raise concerns among Microsoft's customers. Today, if XP suspects that the system has been pirated, it will display annoying Windows Genuine Advantage advertisements until the problem is corrected. But Vista and Longhorn Server will actually turn off functionality if the system is considered pirated. Features such as the Windows Aero UI, Windows ReadyBoost, Windows Defender, and Microsoft Windows Update will either stop working or won't work fully.

Additionally, systems that aren't activated within 30 days of purchase will move into a reduced-functionality mode in which users can access only Microsoft Internet Explorer and the Windows shell, so that they'll be able to perform only system management functions such as backing up files. Users won't be able to open documents or other files or run applications within a nonactivated system.

Microsoft is also extending its reviled Product Activation technology to businesses through Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0. "This helps provide a more secure deployment solution with multiple, flexible options for customers using volume-license keys to deploy many installations of the Windows Vista operating system in one location," Hartje says. "This process can be done in batches or individually by PC." Volume Activation is designed to prevent volume-license product keys from being leaked outside of corporations, Microsoft says, a common problem with XP.

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