Microsoft has confirmed this story originated from a reporter who "received inaccurate information".
"Good afternoon, as of this week, Microsoft has activated a function in Vista called 'Reduced Functionality.'", said an email sent from Microsoft to major Windows Vista distributers.
The email, titled " Pirated Vista -- A darkness descends!" continues to describe what Microsoft means by Reduced Functionality:
"This is a specific function in Vista that effectively disables nongenuine copies of Windows. Therefore anyone who has a pirated copy of Vista will experience:
A black screen after one hour of browsing
No start menu or task bar
Please communicate this antipiracy initiative from Microsoft to your resellers -- note this function has only just been activated in Vista worldwide and therefore any issues with nongenuine versions will start to arise from now onward."
The email also contained an advertisement directed to retailers. Titled "Don't let this happen to your customers", the advertisement states at some point that " The blocking of nongenuine product keys is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. To help protect honest partners and fight piracy, Microsoft will continue to block product keys that are determined to be pirated, stolen or otherwise deemed nongenuine."