Wine maker relaxed over Microsoft's 'blockade'

Microsoft's anti-piracy tool appears to block users who run a Windows emulator on Linux

A company that sells products based on Wine, an open source application that allows users to run Windows applications under Linux, said it isn't worried that Microsoft's anti-piracy application appears to be blocking the emulation software.

Jeremy White, chief executive at CodeWeavers, which sells Wine-based products, said this week that he wasn't worried about the issue because Microsoft would face legal action if it attempted to tie Office and Windows too tightly together.

I think people have blown it out of proportion because it's not a problem," said White. "If they [Microsoft] start saying you can only get Microsoft Office updates if you are running the Windows operating system then that would expose them to legal repercussions as they would be tying one monopoly product to another. We would be delighted if they did this -- we could sue them and become rich."

Last month Microsoft said from the middle of 2005 customers will need to verify that their copies of Windows are genuine before downloading updates and add-on tools, through a programme, called Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). WGA uses a validation tool to check whether a particular version of Windows is genuine, which is already running on the Microsoft site.

Wine developer Ivan Leo Puoti subsequently warned on a mailing list that the WGA validation program appears to be blocking Wine. The problem affected Wine users emulating various versions of Windows, apart from Windows XP.

This appears to be a deliberate attempt to block Wine, as a Wine configuration key was found in an application used as part of the validation process, according to Puoti. "Even if this is only an initial attempt, they [Microsoft] appear to want to discriminate Wine users," said Puoti.

Web site Slashdot posted information on the this issue last week, which lead to concerned postings from some Wine users who were worried they would not be able to download updates to their licensed version of Microsoft Office.

"I don't use Wine to run Windows OS [operating system], I run it to run some (work required) Office apps and some games," said one posting. "The Office apps were purchased and presumably have rights to be updated the same as any other user of Office apps. Same with the games. But Microsoft is saying that, because I am using a valid purchased version of their software on an OS other than Windows (by using Wine) they will not allow updates from their servers."

White believes this issue shows that Microsoft is worried about Wine, which he believes is good news for his company.

"The reason we love this is because this shows that Microsoft is aware of Wine at very high levels," said White. "For us it's exciting -- it is an acknowledgement of us as a threat. Microsoft does not want the world to know how terrified of Wine they are."

White's main concern is that people who hear about this issue may think that they cannot run Microsoft Office on Linux, which would discourage people from moving to the open source operating system. "Microsoft would love it if people thought that," said White.

This is not the only concern that has been raised against Microsoft's WGA programme. Last month research group Gartner said the programme will result in more security problems as there will be more unpatched Windows systems available on the Internet.

Microsoft had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

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