In the distant past, Microsoft used to be willing to admit
that -- especially in developing countries -- the company was significantly better off
due to infringement. Bill Gates famously said: "As long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade." More recently, of course, Microsoft has been increasingly aggressive when it comes to its anti-piracy campaigns. The company recently did a PR stunt around Global Play Fair Day
, in which it released a study, done by Keystone Strategy, which I think is supposed to explain the importance of not
infringing. However, the message that it actually
seems to be sending is: "paying for Microsoft software is bad for business."
I'm not joking.
The key point that we learn is that companies in Brazil, Russia, India and China "ultimately have a $1.6 billion (U.S.) competitive advantage over companies that play fair by using genuine software." In other words, if you pay for our software, you're at a competitive disadvantage. Some of the other points from the press release, which only seem to drive this point home further:
- Piracy creates more than $2.9 billion of competitive disadvantage per year across manufacturers in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.
- In specific countries, Keystone determined how much pirated software harms manufacturers playing by the rules as follows: Brazil ($186 million), Russia ($115 million), India ($505 million), and China ($837 million).
- Over a five-year software life cycle, manufacturing companies in BRIC countries will lose more than $8.2 billion to their cheating competitors.
- There are more than 4.1 million PCs legally licensed by manufacturing firms that play by the rules in China. The competitive disadvantage to these firms amounts to about $837 million annually, or $4.18 billion over the typical five-year software life cycle.
- Indian manufacturers experience $505 million per year in competitive harm. Their pirating competitors could use this money to hire more than 215,000 new employees.
That last one seems to be saying: "pirating software creates jobs!" Again, the overall takeaway from this appears to be that paying for Microsoft software is bad for business, puts you at a competitive disadvantage and is going to cost you millions. I guess kudos for the honesty, but I'm sorta confused as to why Microsoft is sending out this kind of message. Well, chances are that it's part of a push to influence not companies, but policymakers to "crack down." But, even so, it's an odd campaign. If not paying for software gives you such a huge advantage, couldn't this also be interpreted as a massive promotional campaign for free and open source software?