Users of illegitimate Windows XP copies will be allowed to download and
install Microsoft's upcoming security patch -- Service Pack 2 (SP2), according
to one Microsoft executive.
This wasn't the case in Service Pack 1 and the move runs contrary to the
company's mantra that piracy harms "everyone in the software community including
final version of SP2 is slated to launch this quarter although beta testers
have been going through the motions with the Release Candidate 1 version of the
product since last year.
From a revenue perspective, anti-piracy watchdog the Business Software
Alliance (BSA) says that software piracy costs over $220 million in lost sales
in Australia every year.
So after years spent trying to curb the widespread use of illegitimate
software, why is Microsoft backpeddling? Well, all was
revealed in an interview with Singapore's Computer Times where
Microsoft group product manager Barry Goffe was quoted as saying: "We haven't
explicitly done anything to SP2 to exclude it from pirated copies."
"It was a tough choice but we finally decided that even if someone has a
pirated copy of Windows, it is more important to keep him safe than it is to be
concerned about the revenue issue," said Goffe, who began his career at
Microsoft in 1995 spearheading technical marketing, product strategy and public
relations for the SQL Server division.
The executive went on to say that having unsecure users would ultimately
impact its legitimate customers. "Having these unsecured users means bigger worm
and virus outbreaks."
I was dumbstuck by the article. Silly but what a noble gesture on Microsoft's
part ... or so I thought.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and so Microsoft has
gone into spin control after the story was plastered all over the Web and
newsgroups last week.
The company now says that SP2 will install after the validity of the
operating system's product ID is determined.
"Using genuine software is an important part of keeping systems secure and
running smoothly, because it means continued access to the latest security
enhancements and product updates. Licensed Windows XP, coupled with the upcoming
Service Pack 2, will represent Microsoft’s most secure desktop operating system.
"Press reports indicating Windows XP Service Pack 2 will install on pirated
or illegal copies of Windows XP are not entirely true. Prior to installing, SP2
will check the operating system's product ID (PID) against a list of known
pirated PIDs. If a PID is found to be invalid, SP2 will not install," said a
Microsoft Asia-Pacific spokesperson.
In Microsoft's eyes, the article misrepresented its position on software
piracy. It's unclear if the entire episode was a case of "verbal diarrhoea" on
Goffe's part but one thing's for sure, it will be a cold day in hell before
Microsoft turns a blind eye to software pirates.
Fran Foo is the editor of ZDNet Australia Insight.