Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rewarding Pirating?

A columnist at PC World is confused and upset as to why China gets ridiculously cheap copies of Microsoft Office.

From PC World:

Image from johannes-eva.net

In order to take a bite out of piracy, Microsoft sells copies of its Office Suite in China for just $29 dollars. I wonder how many copies Americans would have to pirate to get the same price? So much for the notion that "crime does not pay!"

I found the pricing information earlier today in a BusinessWeek story about how Microsoft is slashing prices to grab market share and fight off Google and the others that are giving away functionality Microsoft customers are used to paying for.

The magazine said Microsoft estimates 95 percent of all copies of Office used in China are illegal copies. Since the $29 pricing started in September, sales of Office have supposedly increased 800 percent.

This looks like a case of where crime pays big dividends. And, no, I am not suggesting for readers to pirate copies of Office in order to send Redmond a pricing message.

Still, we Westerners have been paying through the nose for Office for almost two decades. If anyone deserves a price break, it's us--not the thieving Chinese. But, it seems that if you are a fast-growing market, lawlessness aside, Microsoft wants to cut you a deal.

I understand what Microsoft is doing and why. I am happy for anything that reduces software theft, but that doesn't make me nearly as happy as a $29 copy of Office would.

Read On
The full version of Microsoft Office 2007 on Amazon.com costs $290.49 (while the home and student version costs $89.99. I just read the original Business Week article. I couldn't tell whether the $29 version in China is the full version. But even if it isn't, this is a huge price break for the Chinese.

I can see why this remarkable discrepancy in price would be frustrating for American users of Microsoft Office. It does, in some sense, seem to be rewarding pirating software.

I'm tempted to bring up the differences in cost of living between the two countries (ie. things are more expensive in America than in China), but really, when it comes to computers and high-tech stuff, the prices are pretty much the same. In fact, a lot of techie items, from my experience, are more expensive in China than in America.

The most obvious solution to this wide gap in prices is for Microsoft to significantly lower its prices in America. Given new challenges from Google, open source word processors, and surely many more challengers to the Office platform, I would have to imagine that in five years, a newest version of Microsoft Office will not cost $300.


Anonymous said...

Its clear that you could find nothing to fault Microsoft about and brought up this issue purely to attack Micro----

*Bonks head*

whoa, sorry about that, started to talk like an MS automaton for a second there.

The guy who wrote the article clearly wasn't looking at the big picture. Yes piracy is a huge problem in China, but there are deeper issues causing the price changes.

How silly this author must now feel since the Chinese will be paying $29 more for office than Americans. Yep, MS is now offering Office for free online in order to try and hurt Google's launch of a free OS. http://www.softsailor.com/news/5822-microsoft-office-2010-for-free-to-kill-google-docs.html

Kinda kills his argument.

Mark said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Hopfrog. I didn't realize that Microsoft is now giving away Office.

I guess Americans won't have to wait five years for the price to come down!

K said...

The 200 kuai version is, AFAIK, the student version. It only has Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word (no outlook).