Microsoft has revealed that more than a fifth of all Windows installations have been declared 'non-genuine'. So should we all love WGA now?

For those with lives beyond their PCs (what's that like?), WGA, or Windows Genuine Access, is the antipiracy program Microsoft introduced to get Windows users to validate their own software. It's remained stunningly unpopular since being foisted on an unsuspecting world in the summer of 2005.

Those lovable geeks at Microsoft claim that in WGA's lifetime more than 512 million PC users have attempted to validate their copies of Windows. Which is a pretty healthy number. The figure that looks a little less rosy-cheeked is the number of validations that have been found to be 'non-genuine'. That's a whopping 22 percent, Bill (suck air over teeth, plumber-style).

To further validate (geddit?) WGA's existence, 56,000 people have bitten the bullet and reported their own software as counterfeit. Which is very public-spirited. (Of course, if you report a pirated version of the operating system you get a free genuine version in return for shopping the salty bootleggers who flogged it to you.)

So why is WGA so universally loathed? Partially this is because a large number of false positives have been reported along the way. And the way it was initially introduced involved a certain amount of sleight of hand (download an 'essential' update, find out your software was nicked). Plus, with its focus on users, WGA isn't exactly set up to disadvantage those at the top of the criminal tree.

You might think that the boys in Redmond were gnashing their teeth at the 22 percent figure but, according to the Business Software Alliance, 35 percent of the world's software is pirated, so Windows is comfortably under par. (Excepting the unlikely event that succesful pirates are intelligent enough to disable Automatic Updates, that is.)

Personally I think that Microsoft is entitled to find out if its products are being nicked. I object only to the marketing-friendly TLA (that's a three-letter acronym to you). Genuine Advantage? Not for me. Call the same product 'WSTBRFTB' (Windows Send The Boys Round For The Bootleggers) and I'd be the first person aboard.

More here.