Microsoft retreats on Vista piracy
By Martin J Young
Microsoft, reacting to customers' complaints that its anti-piracy software is
locking them out of the company's latest operating system, this week declared
that it will remove key functions in Windows Vista that prevent illegal copying
of its programs. The change will be introduced when the next major update of
the operating system is released.
The world's largest software company, which claims to lose billions of dollars
to piracy every year, stated that new features it
had built into Vista are halving piracy levels compared with its predecessor,
The anti-piracy tool dubbed the "kill switch" is to be removed from Windows
Vista when Service Pack 1 (SP1) is released in the first quarter of 2008. The
function, designed to prevent users with illegal copies of the operating system
from accessing certain features, has experienced a number of glitches since its
introduction. Many users with genuine versions of Vista have also been
inadvertently locked out of their operating systems.
The kill switch feature is one of the biggest annoyances and most persistent
objections to adopting Vista. Microsoft will revert to its Windows Genuine
Advantage (WGA) program commonly seen with XP. WGA was launched in 2006 and was
a voluntary option which then became mandatory with Windows Vista. The tool is
an online authenticity verification system that checks that the user's version
of Windows is genuine. Problems arose for Microsoft when legally purchased
versions of Windows were locked down by WGA.
In a briefing ahead of the official announcement on Monday, WGA senior product
manager Alex Kochis said: "Based on customer feedback, we will not reduce
user functionality on systems determined to be non-genuine." In a statement
released by the company, Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Sievert,
added: "Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented
with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to
get genuine copies. They won't lose access to functionality or features, but it
will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and
they need to take action."
Under the new system, users of non-genuine versions will still be able to
access all Vista's features if they can tolerate the nagging messages and
screens when they try to validate or access updates. Microsoft said the new
notifications will lead to more users going online to "get legal" and purchase
licenses that are available at the following costs:
Windows Vista Home Basic, US $89
Windows Vista Home Premium, $119
Windows Vista Business, $145
Windows Vista Ultimate, $199
China is the leading country for hosting "malware", or malicious software,
according to a report by Internet security company Sophos. More than 85% of the
world's websites that are infected with malware are hosted in China, Russia and
the US, with China leading the pack at 55.2%. This figure shows a significant
increase over the 35.2% share Sophos reported for the first quarter of this
The US is showing a downward trend but Russian hosted malicious websites are
also on the increase. "China, Russia and the US continue to top the monthly
chart, accounting for more than 85% of all infected web pages world-wide,"
claimed Mike Haro, senior security analyst at Sophos. Four new entries to this
month's malware chart are Turkey, the United Kingdom, Poland and France,
although their share is minimal compared with the top three. The bigger problem
is the increase in general of malware infected websites on a global scale.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi this week denied that his country was using the
Internet to spy on other countries and added that China itself had been a
victim of cyber espionage. Last week, British-based The Times reported that the
head of intelligence agency MI5 had sent a confidential letter to 300 chief
executives and security chiefs at banks, accountants and legal firms warning
them that "Chinese state organizations" could be hacking into their systems to
gain access to confidential information.
Speaking at a press conference in London with the Foreign Secretary David
Miliband, Yang said: "The Chinese government firmly opposes hacking attacks ...
these are prohibited by law." He added: "Actually a number of Chinese agencies
have been attacked by hackers." China also alleged that the report was an
attempt to hinder the progress of ties between Britain and China. China has
also been accused of cyber attacks on US and German government computers, a
claim that the country denies.
Verizon Wireless announced a shift in policy this week by deciding to support
Google's new Android mobile phone platform. The US telecommunications company
had been one of a number of large cellular carriers withholding support from
Google's project, launched last month. Verizon chief executive Lowell McAdam
says it now makes sense to get behind Android and to allow a broader range of
devices and services on his company's network, which has up until recently been
completely closed to third-party devices and applications.
Verizon spokeswoman Nancy Stark stated: "We fully expected that some in the
development community are going to embrace Android in the devices and
applications they develop and bring to our network, but Verizon Wireless has
not decided whether we're going to use Android in any devices that we offer."
Sony reached a strategic first last month when its leading games console, the
PlayStation 3, outsold rival Nintendo's Wii in Japan. This may be seen as a
turning point for Sony's struggling games division as prices were cut in recent
months to bolster sales approaching the holiday season. In Japan this week,
Nintendo will launch the Wii Fit, a balance board that can be used with the
console to practice yoga or go virtual skiing, in time to catch the holiday
season buying spree.
The long-standing microprocessor struggle between rivals AMD and Intel slowed a
little in the third quarter as both companies improved their overall market
share numbers, according to industry analyst iSuppli. Strong PC sales were a
significant contributing factor to both companies, which increased share
compared with previous months at the expense of smaller rivals.
Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst at iSuppli, said: "Pricing trends were
influenced by many variables, including the consistent strength in computing
markets, Intel's rapid migration to its new Core 2 architecture
microprocessors, and the increasing penetration of multi-core products in the
However as the pricing battle slows, the competition will heat up in the new
year with the introduction of more quad core processors and new 45 nanometer
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.