Strategically wrong: Microsoft

20 June 2004, 3:01 pm ISTFiled under: Microsoft

In the last month or so, we heard that Microsoft would allow everyone to upgrade to XP SP2 even cracked copies..., but then later we heard that Microsoft bars Windows pirates.

Personally I think it was a good decision, to allow even the pirated copies to upgrade SP2, too bad they had to reverse it. Don't get me wrong here, I am not advocating piracy here but I am talking in terms of strategy and weighing the pros and cons of the decision.

Over the last two decades or so, piracy has been one of the unspoken reason for Microsoft's success, especially in early years of countries like India and China where the piracy levels were as high as 90% in the mid-90's. Because every Tom, Dick and Harry was running the Microsoft product be it the Windows or the Office, helped tremendously in increaing the Microsoft's reach to almost everyone using the PC.

But with more people taking to the internet, it has given a twist to the scenario. The pirated copies are the most venerable to the virus, worms and other attacks, because they are using the still unprotected old version of the software, while the legal owners can upgrade an protect themselves from any new threat, as soon as it has been found and fixed.

The situation has become worse in the last couple of years, as we have seen the fast spreading worms and viruses like LoveBug, Sasser, RPC Hacks. And the reason that they had spread so fast because there are so many unprotected (read pirated) copies of the Windows XP exists. This has put a bump into the Microsoft's image. And the image we see now, is that of creator of un-secure, money-gobbling, patch-everytime-worm-relase OSes. And Microsoft is trying to change this image and that is spending a huge US$ 1 billion to make its OSes more secure.

But there is a flaw in its strategy, Microsoft is STILL excluding the pirated copies from its patches, which are still one of the largest unprotected group of Windows XP PCs (or for that matter any other Windows OS). The effect would be far reaching had Microsoft allowed even the pirated copies to become secure (by allowing them access to Service Packs and Windows Update).

So, I wonder, what would be the rate of the spread of any new worm or virus in the post Windows XP SP2 days ...

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Amit Arora is web developer with expertise in developing eCommerce enabled websites for the businesses.

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