Microsoft To Irk Office Pirates Into Submission


In an upcoming pilot program in Chile, Italy, Spain, and Turkey, Microsoft will change its Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program so that users of software that fails anti-piracy checks will be peppered with pop-up dialog boxes and toolbar icons indicating that the software isn't genuine. The alerts stop only after users follow the necessary steps to validate their copies, which usually means buying new ones.

Currently, when OGA detects that a copy of Office isn't genuine, it blocks users from accessing Office templates and other downloads, but doesn't affect the ability to open and save files, said Cori Hartje, worldwide director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, in an email to ChannelWeb. Likewise, the OGA pilot won't affect the ability to open and save documents, she added.

Microsoft's goal with the OGA pilot is to elicit as much user feedback as possible, and it's too early at this stage to speculate on whether it could be expanded to the U.S. or other countries, according to Hartje. "We have no plans beyond these four country pilots at this time," she said.

Microsoft appears to have learned its lesson from the firestorm of criticism it endured over Windows Genuine Advantage, the controversial anti-piracy mechanism that included a 'kill switch' that caused copies of Windows XP and Vista that didn't pass anti-piracy checks to enter reduced functionality mode.

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To Windows users, WGA was about as welcome as a grizzly bear at a picnic, and on several occasions WGA flagged legitimate users' copies of Windows as pirated ones. Public outcry against WGA eventually grew so strong that Microsoft decided to remove the kill switch when it introduced Vista service pack 1 in February.

Microsoft last August fixed a glitch in WGA that affected thousands of users, and blamed the incident on human error. But in November, Microsoft acknowledged the problems with WGA and vowed to fix them.

However, Hartje declined to elaborate on the progress Microsoft has made or the steps it has taken to avoid a repeat of the WGA glitches.

"We're constantly monitoring all the various channels of customer feedback that are available to us, and so far the improvements have made a positive difference," Hartje said.