Analyst: Microsoft Anti-Piracy Efforts To Backfire

While the Windows Genuine Advantage program is voluntary, Microsoft is forcing users to opt-in by refusing to provide some updates, unless it can verify their OS is not pirated. This heavy-handed approach is sure to drive users of illegitimate versions of Windows to the competing open-source operating system, IDC said in its top 10 infrastructure software predictions for 2007.

While it's true that losing people who aren't paying for the software is arguably a good thing for Microsoft, it's certain to cause an uptick over time in Linux's market share. "We don't think this is a pure win for Microsoft," IDC analyst Al Gillen said. "This is going to accelerate the Linux market as well."

While the increase isn't expected to be sudden or dramatic, IDC predicts that over the next 12 months there would be "some incremental growth" because of the WGA program, Gillen said. "This creates a larger, more robust ecosystem for Linux, which could add just a little bit of acceleration to growth."

The WGA program requires Windows XP users to agree to download software that Microsoft uses to verify that the OS is legitimate before sending updates. The WGA program also includes Vista, which shipped to businesses in November, and is set for release to consumers next month.

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Internet Explorer 7 is an example of an important update that wouldn't be available to non-participants of the anti-piracy effort. Critical patches and security updates are still available to everyone, but that could easily change, Gillen said.

Microsoft has been criticized for its handling of the WGA program. The first version of the notification component "phoned home" to Microsoft's servers on a daily basis, angering privacy advocates and others. The software was later updated to remove the feature.

In other IDC predictions, the analyst firm reaffirmed its earlier expectation that Vista is unlikely to cause much of an increase in spending in the PC market. People and companies who do buy Vista, however, will favor the premium version.

IDC also expects to see a next wave of virtualization technology appear next year, focusing on continuity, disaster recovery, and high availability.