10 July 2007

Microsoft, China, Piracy, the Future

Sometimes the truth will out in the most surprising contexts. Like here, in this article about Microsoft's growing success in China:

Today Gates openly concedes that tolerating piracy turned out to be Microsoft's best long-term strategy. That's why Windows is used on an estimated 90% of China's 120 million PCs. "It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not," Gates says. "Are you kidding? You can get the real thing, and you get the same price." Indeed, in China's back alleys, Linux often costs more than Windows because it requires more disks. And Microsoft's own prices have dropped so low it now sells a $3 package of Windows and Office to students.

That, in a nutshell is the future. Not just for proprietary software, but for all digital goods. It doesn't matter if stuff is pirated, because it seeds the market. Money can be made later, once the market has reached a critical point. It's slightly worrying for free software that Microsoft has made this discovery, albeit by chance. The upside is that it will prove an important proof point on Microsoft's larger journey to opening up. (Via The Open Road.)

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