Microsoft Denies 'Kill Switch' In Office 2007

As with previous versions of the productivity bundle, Office 2007 does include an activation scheme that requires users to authenticate the product key either online or by telephone, said Ashim Jaidka, the director of Office Genuine Advantage. OGA is the umbrella program for Office product activation and validation.

"Activation technology isn't new to Microsoft Office," Jaidka said in an e-mail. "It's important to note the distinction between activation and validation."

Under Office 2007's activation rules, users can launch a suite application up to 25 times without entering the product key. Once that launch allowance is exhausted, however, the applications slip into what Microsoft dubs "reduced functionality mode," under which the user cannot create, edit, or save documents. Viewing and printing of documents, however, are allowed. Office 2003, released three years ago, gives users a grace of 50 launches, twice as many as Office 2007 will allow.

"In reduced-functionality mode, 2007 Office programs function more like viewers," stated a support document posted last week.

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Windows Vista, which will release simultaneously with Office 2007 at the end of November to corporations and move to retail on Jan. 30, features an additional anti-counterfeit component called "Software Protection Platform" that can disable the operating system if it's found to be counterfeit, even if Vista has been activated earlier.

Under that scheme, Windows Vista users can run the operating system 30 days before they must validate it as legitimate. Copies judged to be counterfeit drop into a similarly named "reduced-functionality mode" that differs from the one in Office 2007: In Vista's, only the Internet Explorer browser works, and then only for an hour at a time before logging the user off automatically.

There are no plans to plant a similar "kill switch" in Office 2007, although in an October interview Jaidka said Microsoft was retaining the right to change its mind in the future. For the moment, however, Office 2007 and Vista use different definitions for the "reduced-functionality mode" term.

"Failure to validate your copy of the 2007 Office system as being genuine doesn't result in moving to reduced functionality mode or de-featuring the product," Jaidka said.

Office 2007 will have a mandatory validation feature identical to the one announced at the end of October for Office XP and Office 2003, however. That validation is required to download add-ons from the Office Web site, and features a free offer to some users who have unwittingly bought a bogus copy of the suite.

The differences between the anti-piracy approaches of Office 2007 and Windows Vista is due to the technology each uses. Office 2007 relies on the Windows XP-esque Windows Genuine Advantage software, a move that was forced on the suite's developers because Vista's Software Protection Platform wasn't ready when the choice of anti-piracy techniques had to be made.

Office 2007 will be sold in several editions at retail prices ranging from $149 to $679.