Microsoft to offer code protection, validation to other software developers

Microsoft is planning to deliver on October 1 to third-party software developers a set of technologies that will allow them to add code protection and activation mechanisms to their own software.

Microsoft is planning to deliver on October 1 to third-party software developers a set of technologies that will allow them to add code protection and activation mechanisms to their own software.

When Microsoft first unveiled its "Genuine Software" initiative three years ago, company officials said they planned to license to third parties some of the same anti-piracy technologies that Microsoft was baking into Windows and Office. Instead, Microsoft has decided to provide external developers with a separate, parallel offering, said Group Product Manager Thomas Lindeman.

Microsoft will offer third parties a bundle of "Software Licensing and Protection Services" (SLP) components, which are based on technology it acquired in January 2007 when it bought Secured Dimensions, an Israeli company that developed software licensing and IP protection technology. Microsoft currently is testing SLP with a hand-picked group of Technology Adoption Partner program testers, Lindeman said.

Microsoft's SLP platform will be comprised of three elements, Lindeman said, any of which can be licensed individually from Microsoft. The three:

* Code Protector Software Development Kit (SDK): A toolkit to allow developers to obfuscate their code to prevent it from being reverse-engineered. Version one of the SDK will work with .Net managed code; a forthcoming version also will support native Win32 code. The toolkit also will allow developers to mark specific features inside their code as "licensable entities" which they can control with various kinds of digital licenses. Microsoft plans to make the SDK available for download, as well as to include it as part of Visual Studio 2008.

If developers want code protection for non-Microsoft code, such as Java, "I'll partner with someone or find a way to get that covered," Lindeman said.

* SLP Server: A product that will allow ISVs to host their own servers and create software licenses -- machine-based, time-based (for software subscriptions and trials), user-based and/or feature-based -- for their products. The server will generate a key, which users will use to activate their software, via a digital license. SLP Server will come in two versions: Standard and Enterprise.

"You will be able to turn on different features and different SKUs for different markets without having to go back and touch the code," Lindeman explained.

(In terms of activation, the SLP products and services will allow developers to set their own licensing policy. I asked Lindeman whether he didn't simply mean "set their own DRM policy." He said Microsoft prefers the term "licensing policy," as "DRM is really a thing of the past.")

* SLP Online Service: An option allowing partners to do all their license management "in the cloud." Microsoft is planning to deliver three levels of service (Basic, Standard and Enterprise) to partners on a yearly subscription basis. The company plans to offer all Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Premium subscribers a subscription to the SLP Online Service Basic Edition.

Microsoft is encouraging developers to take the next step, and do not just activation, but also Genuine Advantage-style validation. But the new SLP offerings are not "Genuine Advantage" for third parties, Lindeman said.

"We are encouraging ISVs to think about doing validation like we do with Genuine Advantage. They can do that or their own thing," Lindeman said.

Lindeman hinted that Microsoft might be considering make some sort of "Open Genuine API" (application programming interface) available to third parties, but had no further details to share.

Any third party software makers out there interested in giving Microsoft's anti-reverse-engineering and/or software activation and licensing technologies a try?


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