Monday, October 27, 2008


I came across a news item out of China that has spread around much of the world but has barely surfaced in the US. Microsoft recently stepped up its campaign through the internet to identify pirated copies of Windows software in use. If an illegal copy is found the screen background is turned black and a notice is printed in one corner that the operating system is an illegal pirated copy of Windows.

The Chinese computer users, legal and illegal users of Windows are indignant over what they perceive is an invasion of their privacy, that if Microsoft can "hack" all their users it isn't fair, and one lawyer has even filed a suit that it is a crime.

Microsoft has even made an offer of greatly discounted copies of Windows but has defended its action of presenting users with the black screen "warning", which only appears for a short time every hour without otherwise disabling the computer.

This Microsoft anti-piracy campaign is seen as a threat and there is a Chinese backlash against Microsoft as it seems most Chinese see little wrong in using pirated software, which is estimated to run 80% of the computers in the country. This is a business dilemma for Microsoft of course, but they have a hard argument to make when a pirated copy of Windows is 1/10th or less than a legal copy, and especially in a country where the average income is still a fraction of what it is in the US or Europe.

But for the typical Chinese computer user, it is also a dilemma considering a large part of the computer components and complete computers sold in the world are made in China, and they nearly all must have Windows to be useful to people everywhere. So the old American saw, what is good for General Motors (substitute Microsoft) is good for America (substitute China) - the Chinese would have a much poorer economy without PC's and Microsoft, as the computer industry supports a big part of China's export industry.

Although even business people in China, at a level that must be aware of how big a part of China's new modern economy computer business is, have the attitude "I'll still use pirated software" quoted from a comment posted to this article as published in China. The curious thing is, what kind of logic supports not seeing that by persisting and supporting pirated software they are shooting themselves in the foot, and don't seem to realize it or care.

What sense does it make for the Chinese to be furious at Microsoft for letting users of pirated software know that what they are using is illegal? And they apparently don't understand why Microsoft is connected to their computer when they use the internet. Is this not a case of a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Apparently few in China understand that Microsoft is part of the "computer goose" that lays golden eggs, and starving the goose by using pirated software may cause them to have less themselves.

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