Pirated Vista may be useless, Microsoft says

Report: Anti-piracy features of Microsoft's new Vista operating system and Office 2007 software suite may have been thwarted.

Microsoft said supposedly pirated copies of its new Vista computer operating system (OS) "will be of limited value" to those who use them.

Microsoft responded Tuesday to reports that some Web sites have been circulating pirated copies of Vista and the Microsoft Office 2007 applications suite.

The pirated Vista comes with a product key that users can enter to activate a version of the products on their computers without paying for them, according to a report on The Sydney Morning Herald Web site. A product key is a unique serial number tied to each package of a software product.

A second download, called an "activation crack," can then be applied that bypasses the activation process intended to guarantee that the Vista OS being downloaded is legitimate, the Herald reported. Pirated copies of Office 2007 can be downloaded just with the product key with no second activation code required.

But Microsoft said in a prepared statement that those pirated copies of the OS won't work for long.

"The copies available for download are not final code and users should avoid unauthorized copies which could be incomplete or tampered. This unauthorized download relies on the use of pre-RTM [release-to-manufacture] activation keys that will be blocked using Microsoft's Software Protection Platform. Consequently, these downloads will be of limited value," the statement said.

Microsoft is still looking into reports of pirated versions of Office 2007 and declined further comment.

"Microsoft is happy that customers are eager to begin using Windows Vista," the company said.

Microsoft has been criticized for multiple delays in bringing Vista to market, but has said it wants to take care that the product is designed correctly to avoid security flaws, piracy problems and other software glitches.

The company released Vista to computer manufacturers November 8 for them to build into new laptops and desktops available for retail sale in January 2007. Consumers can start buying individual copies of Vista January 30.

Microsoft also plans to have Vista in the hands of business customers by the end of November. It has scheduled a Vista launch event in New York City on Nov. 30 at which the new Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 will also be introduced.

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