Microsoft's Tester Stamps out Office Replicas

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Starting February, Microsoft Office users in Hong Kong can test their software's authenticity with a new anti-counterfeiting tool.

Despite a slight decline of Hong Kong's software piracy rate from 53 to 51 per cent between 2006 and 2007, the rate remains high compared to other developed economies in the West, which hovers around 30 per cent.

Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) is a software update available for optional download via Windows automatic updates. Once installed, OGA will test the software's authenticity and notify users whether their Windows Office applications are authentic or pirated. OGA cannot be uninstalled once downloaded.

If an Office application is found to be non-genuine, a Windows dialogue box will alert the user with the message that reads "this copy of Microsoft Office is not genuine", and the user will be provided with options to obtain the officially licensed one. After a month of notifications, a reminder will be displayed on the Office task bar that reads "this copy of Microsoft Office is not genuine. Click here to learn more." The performance of personal computers (PCs), however, will not be affected in any way, said Microsoft.

Licence to shield

The OGA has already been piloted last year in Turkey, Chile, Italy, Spain, and China, and has received "positive response", according to Adam Anger, senior director of business and marketing organisation, Microsoft Hong Kong. He said most users chose to download OGA as they did not want to take the risks associated with pirated software and wanted to know if their versions were not genuine.

PCs with pirated software installed are generally more vulnerable to malware, spyware, and viruses by 42 per cent, said David Hooper, business group lead, information worker, Microsoft Hong Kong. About 25 per cent of websites that offer pirated software attempt to install spyware or Trojans, according to a study by research firm IDC.

Software piracy rates in the Asia Pacific have dropped by an average of two per cent between 2006 and 2007, according to a Business Software Alliance study. Their rates in 2007 were: Vietnam (85 per cent), Indonesia (84 per cent), China (82 per cent), Thailand (78 per cent), India and Philippines (69 per cent), Malaysia (59 per cent), South Korea (43 per cent), Taiwan (40 per cent), Singapore (37 per cent), Australia (28 per cent), Japan (23 per cent) and New Zealand (22 per cent). The same year, the rate in the US was 20 per cent.

OGA users can quickly purchase genuine Office software online. Victims of counterfeit Office software can apply for a complimentary copy of Microsoft Office.

Charles Mok, president of the Internet Society Hong Kong, said the launch of OGA is "a good opportunity to educate people about the importance of using genuine software".

IDC indicated in January that a 10 per cent reduction of software piracy in Hong Kong over the next four years could create an additional US$312 million in economic growth, 2,000 new jobs, and US$123 million additional tax revenues.

This story, "Microsoft's Tester Stamps out Office Replicas" was originally published by MIS Asia.

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