Software giants like Microsoft usually try to bludgeon software pirates with lawsuits in order to get them to stop their thieving ways, but the www.winunleaked.tk Web site is speculating the company may be on the verge of a new technique – beating them in a price war.
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The speculation stems from a screenshot the Web site posted of a Windows 8 build that contained an enticing hint that Microsoft may be creating country-specific versions of the new operating system.
Here’s the Winunleaked posting (the site’s in Vietnam and the English is a little rough):
“I’ll show now, one called « CoreCountrySpecific », branded in Windows 8 as « Windows 8 for China », therefore Microsoft may work on a cheap version of Windows 8 to prevent future counterfeit copies.
It can be installed only with Chinese ISO, with English one, you get a BSOD related to « bad MUI ».”
Now the “therefore” is a followed by a conclusion that is far from logical but nevertheless intriguing. What if Microsoft or any legitimate software manufacturer went after thieves with capitalism – selling the product so inexpensively that even the crooks couldn’t afford to sell it for less. After all, pricing is pretty much the only reason for buying knockoffs, whether it’s phony Rolexes or hijacked versions of Windows 8.
In an enormous market like China, a vendor such as Microsoft could conceivably sell a lot of product and still turn a profit at drastically reduced rates. Software companies historically post wider margins than other companies that sell hardware.
Of course there are problems with this, not the least of which is the discontent such pricing would cause in countries where customers pay full price. It might even be enough to create new pirating opportunities in places where it is now considered unprofitable.
There is also more to the landscape than just Microsoft and pirates, and that includes competitors such as open source Linux and the industry that has grown up around it, which could accelerate its inroads if Microsoft were to stumble.
It’s likely that Microsoft does not plan to undercut Chinese pirates, but it’s still an interesting thought experiment.
(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/1058 blog. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene.)