Tuesday August 26, 2008 MYT 8:16:36 PM
‘Blackouts’ for users of pirated Windows
By STEVEN PATRICK
PETALING JAYA: Starting Wednesday, users with pirated copies of Microsoft Corp's Windows XP Professional operating system (OS) on machines that are Internet-capable could find their computer displays going black and with no screen icons visible.
There are 8.6 million users of Win XP Pro in Malaysia and about three million are expected to suffer the “blackouts,” according to Microsoft Malaysia.
To continue working, the user would need to reset the machine’s desktop background. Everything will return to normal. But when 60 minutes are up, the black screen will reappear and the user must go through the whole process again.
This will keep happening until the user licenses the copy of Win XP Pro on the machine by going to a Microsoft reseller or getting a licence online at the www.microsoft.com/malaysia/genuine. Each licence costs RM580.
This initiative is part of Microsoft’s antipiracy campaign, dubbed Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), aimed at educating users on the benefits of using genuine software, K.T. Ng, Microsoft Malaysia’s director of client business group, told The Star on Tuesday.
Win XP Professional was chosen for the antipiracy blitz because it is the most pirated version of Microsoft’s Win XP operating system. The other version is Windows XP Home, which is for home users.
This is the second time that Microsoft is needling users of pirated copies of its operating system to go legitimate. Two years ago, it sprang its WGA initiative on local users of Win XP Pro and Win XP Home.
That time, a pop-up message showed up whenever the PC with a pirated Windows OS was switched on, with the intention of shaming business and home users into getting legitimate copies. The message said “This copy of Windows is not genuine.”
It was quite successful. At that time, there were about 5.1 million pirated copies of Windows XP Pro and after the exercise, about two million of the copies were validated, said Microsoft Malaysia.
“We are encouraged by that response,” said Ng. "So this time, we have escalated the penalty to a black screen that reappears every hour until the user validates his or her copy of Win XP Pro.”
Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, chief executive officer of Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), lauded the WGA campaign.
MDeC is caretaker of the country’s MSC Malaysia initiative, which is working to build up the nation’s knowledge economy.
“MDeC respects the rights of companies to protect their intellectual property. It’s a reminder that software piracy doesn’t pay, especially when Malaysians are themselves putting a lot of effort into creating original software,” he said.
Several users and industry pundits that The Star spoke to believe Microsoft is using its WGA campaign to herd business users into upgrading to its newest operating system, Windows Vista, which hasn’t garnered interest among companies because of its higher hardware requirements.
“Microsoft has stopped selling Win XP in the market, so you have to wonder why it is spending time and money to take down users of pirated copies of this OS,” said a PC user, who asked for anonymity. “Why isn’t it also targeting users who have pirated copies of Windows Vista?”
“So if I’m using a pirated copy of Vista at this time, I won’t be hassled? Got to wonder about that.”
Ng replied that the concern now is XP Pro, which is widely pirated. “Vista isn’t pirated as much. WGA is continuous and should there be a Vista piracy problem, we will address it down the road,” he said.