Microsoft Corp.'s forthcoming Windows Vista will take much harsher steps to curtail piracy than previous versions of its operating system, including crippling the usefulness of computers found to be running unlicensed copies of the new software.
The software maker said Wednesday that people running a version of Windows Vista that it believed was pirated would initially be denied access to some of the most anticipated Vista features, including Windows Aero, an improved graphics technology.
If a legitimate copy is not bought within 30 days, the system will curtail functionality much further by restricting Web browsing to an hour at a time, said Thomas Lindeman, Microsoft senior product manager.
Under that scenario, a person could use the browser to surf the Web, access documents on the hard drive or log onto Web-based e-mail. But the user would not be able to directly open documents from the computer desktop or run other programs such as Outlook e-mail software, Lindeman said.
Microsoft said it would not stop a computer running pirated Vista software from working completely, and it would continue to deliver crucial security updates.
The Redmond, Wash.-based company also said it had added more sophisticated technology for monitoring whether a system is pirated. For example, the system will be able to perform some piracy checks internally, without contacting Microsoft, Lindeman said.
Microsoft also is adding ways to more closely monitor for piracy among big corporate users, who tend to buy licenses in bulk.
Microsoft plans to take similar tough measures with the forthcoming version of its Windows server software, dubbed Longhorn, and to incorporate it into other products down the road.
The crackdown shows how much more seriously Microsoft has started taking Windows piracy, which for years has been extremely widespread in areas such as Russia and China.
The Business Software Alliance, a software industry group, estimates that 35% of software installed on PCs worldwide is pirated.