Years ago when I lived in Jakarta it was nearly impossible to find legitimate software, and the photocopying of textbooks was a thriving business. I frequently argued with my good friend and faithful wingman Johnny about the cost/benefits of piracy and copyright infringement. It was obvious to me that to an average Indonesian small business, or university student, these intellectual properties were unaffordable at going rates. But more than that, it seemed that the promiscuous spread of pirate copies of MS Word and Windows ensured that Microsoft would become entrenched as the standard, waiting for users who would eventually be able to pay (with access to software paving the way to a more mature economy). Jeremy Wagstaff appears to be thinking the same thing.:
Actually I've long had the sneaking suspicion that (a) this is true. In places like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines etc, the impressive and attractively priced range of pirated software available raises local savvy and interest in computing. When you can buy 100 software titles for the price of a Coke, what's not to like? And this brings me to (b): the likes Microsoft, I suspect, actually don't mind this situation too much, or at least may not hate it as much as they say.
I'm not the first to suggest this: Microsoft knows it can't sell legit copies of Windows or Office to every user in these places. So it gives away what it can, or at least sells at a steep discount, to youngsters. Businesses it tries to wrestle to the ground. The rest it writes off. Sure, it would be great if lots of people bought legit copies, but better that younger people are getting hooked on it, rather than to the opposition (Linux, Ubuntu etc.) One day they'll pay.
Jeremy is an old Asia hand, and we overlapped in Jakarta when he was with Reuters. It seems obvious that especially now, in the age of open source, microsoft wants to maintain its hold on the developing world.