Saturday, May 27, 2006

Software Piracy in India - What Microsoft, Adobe and others can do?

Microsoft has come up with a multi-pronged strategy to address this key problem that has been eating up into Microsoft's India revenues for close to 15 years now. The new strategy includes

  • Launching the Windows Genuine Advantage program online: WGA or Windows Genuine Advantage program uses a software tool to detect computers that run illegal and pirated copies of Windows software and alert the user by showing nag screens on the affected computers. On clicking, the customer is directed to a website that offers legitimate Microsoft software for free on discounted rates. He can also get rid of the screen temporarily by clicking on a 'Resolve Me Later' button. Microsoft also plans to permanently display a message at the bottom of the screen that screams "You might be the victim of software piracy. The copy of Windows installed on this computer is not considered to be genuine by Microsoft.".
  • Educate the Indian Public: Microsoft also believes the reason for the thriving piracy market in India is the ignorant and gullible Indian customer. Most Indian customers don't even feel that they are committing a crime when using illegally installed Windows operations systems or Microsoft Word software. The computer vendor who sold them the PC is expected to load the software. He in turn to keep costs low and attract customers, copes the same single license software repeatedly onto several systems and keeps the customer blissfully unaware of the crime that he has unwittingly become a part of.

Other steps to tackle piracy in India
  • What remains to be seen is how Microsoft plans to tackle offline users who never go online. One way is to just wait patiently. It is not long before every computer would need to be connected to the Net for some transaction or the other. However there still lies the problem of bypassing fire walls, reaching out to anonymous surfers, etc.
  • Tie up with law enforcement authorities at grass root levels.
  • Educate students at schools on how piracy hampers growth of software. One strong example that should drive home the point would be the lack of indigenous local language software from Indian software companies who know that the rampant piracy would put a full stop to their revenue streams.
  • Conduct local awareness camps across semi-urban localities in India which not only educate and demonstrate the advantage of using genuine software but encourage participation by means of distributing massive discount coupons and other freebies.
  • Usage of hardware dongles that need to be used to print anything that has been developed using a particular software. These dongles decrypt information flowing to the printer. The dongles can also be on a subscription basis. A user having MS Word illegally installed will only be able to print a Word document if he has the dongle, else he can only view it on the screen.
  • Offer regular and highly tempting freebies online that would be provided only on verification of the installed Windows OS copy and advertising these freebies heavily via the TV, radio and newspaper media. IT should make the pirated users aware that they are missing on something they need to flaunt on their system.


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