MS ponders licensing by satellite and smart card

Microsoft is testing a range of alternative licensing methods in its on-going fight against the software pirates that includes the use of a satellite download link and MS encrypted smart cards.

These are just two of the licensing solutions that are currently being put through their paces within the walls of the Microsoft usability labs, according to UK anti-piracy manager David Gregory.

The satellite service would enable users to download country-specific software and licenses via a local satellite link. This would mean that a business traveller in say, Turkey, would not have to buy a local Turkish copy of Word and therefore have to use a Turkish software license. Instead, he can download software and license specific to the country in which he lives, therefore avoiding any later licensing complications when he returns home.

The smart card solution puts all the licensing information onto a credit card-sized piece of plastic and software can only be used when the PC receives the licensing information via a swipe device.

Gregory added that these are still "blue sky" solutions but said that the labs are working hard to put together technical methods like this to try and combat illegal software copying. Microsoft is particularly concerned about home users and small business.

"Microsoft has the ability to talk to directly to business customers through its current licensing programmes but it's not the same as selling. We sell through the dealers and retailers and therefore don't have the ability to meet the 24 million SoHo users who are not as responsive as businesses, so a technical solution is needed. The registration wizard is as far forward as we have got to date without compromising customer satisfaction. However, we really believe it will help reduce piracy but not enough."

Gregory pointed out that the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is about to embark on its Crackdown 99 campaign against small businesses. "The BSA has had a lot of success with medium sized businesses so now it is shifting to smaller companies, where the piracy rate is currently running at around 50 per cent."

Microsoft unveiled its On Line Licensing programme in the US earlier this week with a view to removing the excuses that some small companies have for buying pirated software. The Microsoft On Line Web site offers small and mid-sized businesses, a way to purchase Microsoft products at volume discounts from participating resellers.


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