Microsoft Tries To Rope In Unlicensed XP

Filling a gap in its strategy to make sure its business customers are paying for each installed copy of Windows XP, Microsoft yesterday announced the Get Genuine Windows Agreement (GGWA).

GGWA is aimed at increasing Windows XP licensing compliance among businesses. Microsoft apparently believes that some customers misunderstood their agreements, and were installing full copies of XP on corporate computers, which is illegal, rather than upgrading the OS, which the license allows.

Mis-licensing appears to be a common occurrence, according to a Q&A on Microsoft's Web site with Cori Hartje, director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative.

So does "leaking" of license keys, as Hartje explained.

"Microsoft issues a unique key to customers who enter into volume licensing contracts. When a company's license key leaks, it can be used to facilitate counterfeiting by "unlocking" the software repeatedly by unauthorized users who did not pay for it."

Microsoft is offering two flavors of GGWA for different-sized companies: GGWA for Small and Medium Organizations, and GGWA for Large Organizations. The Small and Medium Organization contract requires at least five licenses, and is available through Microsoft channel partners. The Large Organization agreement is available directly from Microsoft or through Large Account Resellers (LARs).

Redmond sees GGWA as an amnesty program, and companies who don't take license compliance seriously should note that it won't be tolerated indefinitely.

"These purchases are intended to be a onetime catch-up for the unlicensed situation," Hartje said in the Q&A.

Software piracy should be less of an issue with Windows Vista and the forthcoming Windows Server 2008, Hartje said. Both products come with the baked-in Software Protection Platform (SPP). SPP includes anti-piracy technologies and tamper-resistant features that should protect Microsoft from customers loading illegal copies of Windows on their computers.

GGWA is the latest addition to Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, which began a year and a half ago to reign in illegal software. The first effort from the initiative was the Get Genuine Kit (GGK), which sparked controversy and an accusation that the company used the Windows Genuine Advantage feature to spy on customers. GGK is meant chiefly for home users and some small businesses.

The announcement of the GGWA is Microsoft's second this month that relates to software piracy. On Monday, Microsoft detailed its Software Licensing and Protections Services (SLP Services) 2008 program. SLP Services protects Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) by making code developed on the .NET Framework much harder to crack and reverse-engineer, and enabling ISVs to granularly create and control SKUs.

About the Authors

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].

Michael Domingo is executive editor, new media, and editor of You can contact Michael at [email protected].