Michala Alexander, Microsoft's U.K. head of anti-piracy, said: "Resolving the problem of software piracy would be immensely beneficial to the U.K. economy. Keep IT Real will help us to address the problem in a number of ways. By educating customers on how to purchase legitimate software, we can protect them from the risks associated with piracy. And by closing down channels for the sale of pirate software, we can reduce the impact of illegal trade on Microsoft's U.K. partners."
She added: "Reducing levels of Windows piracy by 5 percent will help generate substantial extra revenue for Microsoft's 30,000 U.K. partners and their local economies. We are looking into how we put in place measures to halt software piracy across other Microsoft products."
Keep IT Real comprises a number of activities taking place across the U.K., including regional educational tours, promotion of the Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy system, joint work with online retailers and "an increased commitment to legal enforcements".
The Redmond, Wash.,-based firm also promised that an initiative dubbed Feet on the Street would launch a nationwide investigation into vendors of illegal Microsoft software. As part of this exercise, in the next six months, two teams of investigators will make 800 visits across the U.K. to technology vendors suspected of hard-disk loading or other forms of piracy.
Hard disk loading is a practice where unscrupulous PC vendors charge multiple customers for copies of the software pre-installed on PCs, but provide a license agreement valid for only one copy. Investigations into hard-disk loading stem from customer complaints received by Microsoft.
Based on the findings of the Feet on the Street teams, Microsoft will consider the most appropriate course of action for each case, which could include prosecution.
Alexander said: "A small number of IT vendors are at the moment putting customers at risk of unwittingly running illegal software. The work of the Feet on the Street teams will make clear to these vendors that Microsoft will not tolerate illegal copies of its software being sold."
Using internal research, Microsoft said it has identified a number of U.K. cities with "a significantly higher piracy rate than average". Over the next year the firm's representatives will visit these cities and educate local partners, businesses and consumers on the identification of, and risks associated with, counterfeit software.
Microsoft this week announced the initial results of its clampdown on the sale of counterfeit software in the Glasgow area. In projects spanning three years investigations were conducted into twelve companies, resulting in court proceedings and payments of up to £75,000 each to Microsoft.