It’s Piracy Education, Just Not That Kind

UPDATED: It’s probably not in Microsoft’s  new “Genuine Facts File” lesson plan, but piracy has actually reshaped the software giant in a positive way. That’s the take one industry analyst about Microsoft’s latest anti-piracy initiative today.

An outgrowth of last year’s Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), Genuine Facts File hopes to inform Windows users about four areas important to Microsoft: counterfeiting, intellectual property, staying legal and software licensing.

The education campaign is the third part of GSI, a program launched last year focusing on enforcement, software and education as a ways to battle Windows piracy.

As the general launch of Vista and Office 2007 nears, Microsoft is promoting online or trial versions of the new operating system and office suite, hoping to prevent the spread of counterfeit copies.

Microsoft said its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, which it began in 2005, gained 512 million users and lowered counterfeit Windows software to 22.3 percent. “That’s actually an improvement. It was one-third in North America,” Laura DiDio, Yankee Group’s Microsoft analyst, told

The Business Software Alliance reckons that $50 billion annually is lost through software piracy.

Other moves, including allowing the download of Vista, a Family Discount program and the Windows Anytime Upgrade initiative are signs of an unintended effect of piracy.

“The piracy situation has caused Microsoft and consumers to work more closely,” DiDio told Microsoft faces a buyers’ market.

As Microsoft wants its customers to get the most out the software they purchase, the company considers education as the key to protecting them and reducing software piracy, said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Although the company targets pirates as the enemy of software competition, the real foe could be closer to home.

Consumers are using their computers and software longer. Where previously computers (and bundled software) were purchased every two years, systems now aren’t replaced for over three. Indeed, as Microsoft prepares to unleash Vista, many homes are powered by Windows 98.

“At the end of the day, Microsoft’s biggest competitor is older versions of Microsoft software,” she said.

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