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China: Microsoft vs. netizens

Microsoft’s controversial launch of Windows Genuine Advantage software in China brought panic to a huge number of piracy users in the country.

In China, a genuine Windows software costs over 1000 RMB, about the monthly GDP per person. On the other hand, any pirate Windows hawked all over streets only take you 5 RMB, less than $1. Futhermore, pirate Windows is identical with the genuine in almost any feature as it can updat via internet, has better appearance (for example, the famous pirate version “tomato garden”), and therefore is by no means inferior. This leads to the overwhelming advantage of piracy over the genuine. In Tencent.com, an online poll shows 74.28% of the participants, 440711 totally are using pirate Windows. (till 21, Oct)

Now with the WGA, plus OGA directed at pirate Microsoft Office, your computer would be pestered as if attacked by hackers: first, your screen will blackout every 60 minutes. Second, a reminder will continuously pop out to warn that you are using a pirate software. It sounds quite like that a big brother is watching you.

Panic is the first reaction of computer users in China. In the city Shengyang, north China, journalists found that the sales record of genuine Windows had surged by 50% even before the WGA and OGA came into effect. In Beijing, a salesperson told that shareholders who transact online have swarmed over to buy the genuine Windows in case that their business might be affected.

Actually, however, the WGA cannot be implemented until Windows automatically download from the internet a package specific for the function. Other than the uninformed users, more people chose to shut down the Windows Update to avoid WGA once for all. Many geeks have been itching to find a way breaking through WGA’s blockade.

Beyond panic, Chinese users poured anger upon Microsoft, with tons of reasons to justify their disregard of the copyright. In the poll on Tencent, 77.48%of 459944 people vote against WGA. On discussion boards and blogs, it’s not uncommon to see netizens rail against Microsoft.

Columnist blogger Liang Ding wrote on a regional portal Jingchu:

“微软的“黑屏计划”很糟糕”

The black-out plan of Microsoft sucks

中国成为微软盗版操作系统天堂(多数个人用户使用盗版已是公认的事实),与伊始微软为迅速打开并占据中国市场,对盗版睁一只眼,闭一只眼的默认是有极大关 系,如今成了绝对霸主,再杀个回马枪,怎么看都像过河拆桥之举;另一方面,微软令人诟病的高定价策略,十来年前,其操作系统的定价甚至超过了在欧美国家的 价格,几乎相当于一般中国人大半年的工资,如此策略,叫网民买“正版”有可能嘛?

The fact that China is a paradise for pirate Windows is closely associated with Microsoft.At the very beginning when it attempted to take over Chinese market, it acquiescence the existence of piracy. Today, since it has come to have the dominance on the market, Microsoft decided to root out piracy, kicking down the ladder by which it rose up to the hegemony. Meanwhile, it sells Windows in a ridiculously high price, almost equal to our yearly income for one copy. With such a price strategy, how could it be possible to call on netizens to buy the genuine Windows?

He furthermore pointed out that

而微软现在依然实施的高价策略,以及其绝对垄断的市场地位,使得网民使用盗版的举动有了“对抗霸权”的含义。对于分散在互联网各处的终端用户而言,微软是绝无可能发挥其集团“兵力优势”的

The use of piracy could be interpreted as a fight against illegitimate hegemony, because Microsoft sticks to its high-price strategy with the back of its monopoly. Moreover, Microsoft cannot override the so many end-users in China, because they are much distributed.

A more radical point comes from a reply of Liang Ding’s article,

同意以上观点!微软还是不要惹火烧身为好!就算比尔给世界上的贫困阶层做一点儿微 不足道的社会公益事业吧!你们赚那么多钱干什么用?老百姓不用新技术,你们的新技术如何推陈出新?知识共享的时代快要到来了,你们还是多做一点贡献,这样 更有利于世界大同!狡猾的没有德行的美国人一边用枪炮公开侵略掠夺世界一边幕后黑箱操作、买空卖空、坑梦拐骗,还用实物贸易赚了中国人两万亿美元的产品, 给我们的却是日日贬值的一堆废纸!何其无耻!

I fully agree with you! Microsoft had better not get itself troubles! Bill Gates you just do some public good to the poor in the world! Why do you earn so much money? …… the age of sharing knowledge is coming, you’d better contribute more to building a harmonious world! Foxy Americans, on the one hand is invading the world with guns, on the other hand is looting the world with speculation, swindle and international trade. In the trade you earn two trillion of products from China but only give back a pile of waste paper value-decreasing day-to-day. Shame on you!….

Few people would think Microsoft can win the war under the waves of rage. So is there any way out for Microsoft?

Playin’ with IT posted his quiz online to show what people prefer to see from Microsoft.

1. 默许盗版,让所有收入不高的人,都可以接触最新的科技
2. 默许盗版,可以达到永远压制国内软件产业和开源产业发展的目的
3. Windows永久免费,将中国区作为一个特别区,试验新的商业模式
4. 停止开发中文版产品,永远放弃中国市场
5. 严打盗版,恢复软件产业的良性发展,同时也为竞争产品留出市场
结果是,第三条“Windows永久免费,将中国区作为一个特别区,试验新的商业模式”得到了压倒性的支持。

1 acquiesce piracy, to let all the low-income enjoy high-tech
2 acquiesce piracy, to forever press upon Chinese local software industry
3 Window for free forever, but make China a special zone to develop new business mode.
4 stop developing Chinese product. Give up China
5 strike piracy, restore normal development of software industry, and give room to competitors.

The result is, the choice 3 win an overwhelming support.

But Microsoft is not likely to take this advice. A hard battle is looming. Microsoft vs. millions of piracy users, international corporation vs. developing state, who will win the final victory?

  • http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/author/mohammad-azraq Mohammad Azraq

    Nicely done Bob, thank you for this very interesting post :)

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  • Chris

    This is going to be fun to watch.

    On one hand, I do not like Microsoft and their strategies in general, but on the other hand, I never much liked the argument that “if I cannot afford it, I should be able to have it for free.”

    Thankfully for the Chinese, western users have struggled with this for years, and as a result, linux is a perfectly viable alternative, more difficult to use, but free.

    As for the unfairness of setting the same price in China and in US, China is not a poor country anymore, and does not need economic help from Microsoft. China’s economy is arguably benefiting a lot from the fact life is cheaper there than in US… However, there are disadvantages, and this is one of them.

  • John Carter

    If Linux wins, we all win.

  • Neddy

    I am with Chris on this one. Excusing or rationalising software piracy is not on, but Microsoft’s strategy here seems like that of a drug dealer’s: Get them hooked, then squeeze them dry. I refer to Bill Gates’ alleged statement that “if they (Chinese) must pirate, I prefer they pirate ours”.

    As for the “unfairness of setting the same price in China and in US”, let’s not forget that MS product is grossly overpriced everywhere, IMO.

    And we need not wait for Linux to win for things to improve; as Linux gets strong enough to hurt their bottom line, you’ll see MS changing their ways, too!

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  • T

    One interesting thing is that this WGA is targeted at Windows XP instead of Windows Vista.Come on, can anyone get Windows XP? Especially Home edition for home users legally? In China, pirate Vista is as easy to get as XP, but no one like Vista…

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  • TNTC

    Piracy is wrong, no matter what. As other users have commented, Linux is a viable alternative. Does Microsoft come and steal your TV, or your kids toys? Why should you get to steal from hard working MS employees? MS is not the only victim of piracy either. While computers are becoming essential for business, and MS is a common standard, it is far from the only option. If the Chinese people want to fight the tyrrany of expensive software, they need to start using free software like Linux and BSD, so that the reliance on Windows is broken. Don’t like the high price of Windows and Office? Don’t use it! Download Ubuntu and Open Office, or Red Flag Linux! Ubuntu will even SEND YOU A CD OF THEIR SOFTWARE IN THE MAIL FOR FREE! MS Software is expensive because MS puts a lot of effort into making it work on just about everything, and trying to regulate it to make it more reliable. It has employees specifically for making Windows better. This costs a lot of money!

    Linux has decent, but imperfect hardware support. It is developed by the community, and does not always have full time programmers for its support. It’s not free because the developers don’t value their time, it’s free because they want more people to work on it, and the only way to do that is to give everyone full view of the source code.

    Software Piracy is called Piracy for a reason. You are stealing something because it is easily stolen, not because you need it to survive. There are even legitimate free alternitives, yet you choose to steal anyhow. Any justification of piracy is just a lie you tell yourself to make you feel better about the theft.

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