The Register reports today on Microsoft's trial scheme for offering Windows XP software to currently unlicensed users. The article reads (in part):
"Microsoft does have a long term and wide-ranging ambition to turn the very large numbers of users of counterfeit Windows into legitimate users. At the same time, it wants to hunt down the companies selling new PCs with pirate software on board, the (probably sensible) rationale here being that if this channel for pirate software is throttled then quite a lot of the problem will go away. Quite a lot of people will end up with pirate Windows installations via this route and either won't know or won't care, whereas a lot less people are likely to go to the trouble of of downloading and installing software when they've already got something on the PC.The IPKat wonders whether, if this works for computer software, will Rolex, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and friends be tempted to roll out similar schemes?
So one of the questions here is whether it's more important with the current offer for Microsoft to legitimise the users, or more important to obtain leads and evidence that will allow it to take action against the sources. Or possibly, even to just frighten a reasonable percentage of the sources into cleaning their acts up.
Aside from being limited by the confusion factor, volume licence purchasers are excluded, as are people under 18 (which is perhaps a bit thoughtless, but is likely to be related to the validity of the witness statement) and "employees of Microsoft or its affiliates" (come on, would they really dare?). The offer itself expires at the end of next month, but you can make up to five submissions per person. There isn't much obvious advantage in the offer from the user's point of view, as first you have to use the standard Microsoft process to check whether or not your software is genuine, then collate any accompanying documentation, invoice or receipt, and the witness statement, then send it all to Microsoft. Then they might send you back a copy of the real software - unless there are other factors at play, then it's a bit of work for little obvious return.
Probably, vast numbers of people will not stampede to take this up, and we would not be surprised if the cost of the support phone calls far exceeds the other costs of the programme. There are however signs of where Microsoft would like to be with this kind of operation, as opposed to where it is at the moment. Its product identification guide for example claims that there's an "Is this copy of Windows legal?" link in IE's help menu. Looking at our own copy of Windows (XP SP2, IE 6) that does not seem to be the case, so presumably it will be the case, or it's something that arrives with some feature we've declined to download (of which, we accept, there are many)".
More on replacements here and here