Genuine Windows Offer
Microsoft was also planning to announce on Tuesday a program known as the Genuine Windows Offer, which is targeted at those people who are genuine victims of counterfeit Windows software and who would thus be unable to pass the validation process. There are two options for those users: Firstly,
Microsoft will give a free copy of the software to those users who can provide proof of purchase, the original counterfeit CD, and who have filed a counterfeit report.
Asked how much revenue Microsoft hoped to derive from getting some users of pirated or illegal Windows software to go legal, Lazar said that while Microsoft had some thoughts on that matter, the most important goal is for customers to recognize the difference and to ask for Genuine Windows when they buy a new system.
While the piracy rate in the United States is not as high as elsewhere in the world, the absolute volume of systems involved is the same in China and as in the United States.
Bonnie MacNaughton, the lead attorney for Microsofts U.S. anti-piracy enforcement program, told eWEEK that there would be between 12 million and 13 million unlicensed new PCs in the United States in the coming year, which "is an enormous problem for us. I think a substantial percentage of those customers will not know that the have illegal software," she said.
MacNaughton, whose group also deals with education and engineering, including product activation technologies and the edge-to-edge holographic designs Microsoft uses on its discs to minimize the ability of people to counterfeit its software, said the Windows Genuine Advantage program slots into the education side and that a Web site has been developed to help customers determine if their software is genuine.
"The WGA program takes that educational component to the next level by giving customers an online tool to validate their software and to understand whether they in fact received what they paid for."
A recent study by the Business Software Alliance and research firm IDC found that the worldwide piracy rate is 36 percent, and in the United States, the rate is a "staggering" 22 percent, MacNaughton said.
The full BSA/IDC piracy report is available online in PDF form.
"A fifth of the computers in the United States are running illegal software, and this is a problem costing the global economy more than $31 billion on an annual basis. WGA is one of the activities we are engaging in to address the educational program around this," she said.
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The second option available to those users who fail the validation process is to buy a legitimate product key from Microsoft at a cost of $99 for Windows XP Home and $149 for Windows XP Pro, both of which are lower than the full retail price.