Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on July 27, 2007
In this BusinessWeek story that was one of the most widely stories on BW today, Henry Chesbrough argues that Microsoft should just learn to stop worrying and love software piracy. He says that Bill Gates et. al. should be happy that so many Chinese and Indians want to use Windows, albeit for free. Forcing authorities to crack down on counterfeiting, Chesbrough argues, just encourages people to give up on Windows altogether and use Linux instead. Not good if you’re Microsoft.
Sorry, but I disagree. Sure, there was a time when it sort of made sense for Microsoft not to make a big deal out of software piracy in the world’s two biggest countries. Few people really could afford legit Windows, after all, and Microsoft could indeed take solace in the idea that at some point, those Windows users would make the switch from fake to real software. But that point is now. After years of suffering in China and India, Microsoft can actually start making some money on its popular OS. The middle classes in China and India have grown a lot in the past few years and both countries have made good progress in fighting counterfeit software. I’m not sure what the stat is in India but China’s fake piracy usage has gone from 92% down to 82% in three years. Bad, but moving in the right direction. And contrary to what Chesbrough suggests, the fact that fewer people are using counterfeit software does not mean that Chinese and Indians are embracing Linux as an alternative. Consider this report from Gartner analyst Diptarup Chakraborti from early this year. Writing about the Indian PC market, the Garnter analyst says that Microsoft rules the Indian PC and that almost no one uses open source: “Linux is still a non-starter.”