Microsoft Anti-piracy Solution Backfires In China

There’s no doubt that software piracy is rampant in China. Microsoft attempted to remedy the problem with its new version of Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program, which will turn the screen black every hour if the system fails the validation test. Previous versions just notified the user that they were using pirated software. You can imagine this didn’t go over too well with the Chinese, who were outraged by the inconvenience and more than one even accused Microsoft of hacking into their computers. A genuine, unpirated version of Windows costs over 1000 RMB, which is more than most Chinese make in a month. Contrast that with the 5 RMB (less than one US dollar) for the pirated version, and you’ve got a no-brainer.

[via MetaFilter]

66 thoughts on “Microsoft Anti-piracy Solution Backfires In China

  1. I’m not detecting what part of their plan “backfired.”

    The whole point was to make using a pirated version more of an annoyance to increase legitimate sales. They apparently succeeded:

    “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.”

  2. Um, fuck Microsoft. You are all defending Microsoft? What the fuck?

    Would you buy Windows if it cost you a month’s salary? Say, $10,000? What’s that? No?

    You never downloaded a song or movie? Never bought a DVD from a guy on the street?

    Here’s a clue for Microsoft. Sell a Chinese version the consumers there can afford.

    End of problem.

  3. indeed, it sounds a lot like “microsoft succeeds in its goals”. It sounds like Microsoft said “hey, our nag screen is not naggy enough, let’s make people sit up and take notice”. Now, GRANTED, its goals may not be the most profitable goals in the long term, as it may erode the value of its brand in China, but it certainly sounds like it achieved its objective.

    Also, the article indignantly compares the price of windows to the typical chinese income; what it doesn’t mention of course is that computers and thus pirated version of windows are more likely to be possessed by somebody with above-average income. At the major universities, there will be no shortage of laptops, even apple laptops running a dual boot with a pirated version of windows which the students can download from their university’s ftp server. True, the poor rural farmers cannot afford the windows at the price microsoft is selling it, but the people running the internet cafes and the students and the big businesses surely can.

  4. It’s a real shame they all go through such hassle to use an illegal copy of Windows. There are so many more options for them that don’t entail such “poor” behaviour. I say “poor” in quotes because, obviously, it’s considered fairly normal in their society.

    I think that a *nix using China would be a far greater threat to Microsoft than a Windows-raiding one.

  5. Yeah I ran into that as well with a legitimate copy of windows. That on top of the problem I had activating my pre-SP1 XP when I needed to reinstall my laptop finally drove me over the edge.

    All I can say is that any reservations about Apple I had back then are gone, I’ve been pure Apple for nearly two years and I love it.

  6. That’s really the way to do it. Either the people will live with it, pay for it or roll over to a low or no cost equivalent. Consumers and businesses should know the risks and take the action they deem appropriate. This is a crash course learning session for the Chinese.

    Anyway, if Windows is 1000RMB, is the computer 2000-80000RMB?

  7. As a programmer and song writer, I fervently support buying anything that is sold. While that is my opinion, I also agree that both Microsoft and Apple overcharge practically everything they sell.

    The best solution, in my opinion, is to make a move towards open source software. With many major programs becoming open source, I think companies should start thinking about releasing their own software as open source versions. Then again that is my opinion.

    Yay open source!

  8. every computer i have ever owned had/has/will has a pirated version of windows or anything else that costs way too much for doing practically diddly squat. i love Linux because its free, i like windows because its like a hobby, and i can use mac if i have to. i just have to laugh at china because they went successful with the pirating. Its really easy to pirate all versions of windows, i view it all as a game. i think that this latest attempt from Microsoft to stifle the pirating is kinda nice to keep all of the lame noob piraters out. the last thing we need is for a bunch of noobs to go around with pirated software, companies make less money and the products get more cheepley made cough:vista:cough. this is a necessary evil that we do need.

  9. why lower the cost of windows? just get linux, its free. no need to nerd rage over something so stupid. If you cant pay for it, download it and work around the anti-piracy bit… or just get something you CAN afford.

  10. linux is not the solution, sorry to burst your bubbles, but for the average user, windows or mac is the best option, both of those, you can walk into a store, and ligit or not, you can buy software for it and know it will work when you get home. not to mention when’s the last time that you were able to run something such as battlefield 2142 on a linux machine? yes, it’s cheep, yes it’s better than it was, but it still isn’t where it needs to be to replace windows. and as for working around this xp issue, just give them a few weeks, from what i’ve seen, they’ll get around it

  11. @dylan
    “but for the average user, windows or mac is the best option, both of those, you can walk into a store, and ligit or not, you can buy software for it and know it will work when you get home”

    Most linux distros come preconfigured with package repositories where you can DL all the software you want without ever leaving the house. So in a sense, by your argument, linux saves me the gas I’d burn on a trip to the store; not only further proving its overall lower cost of ownership, but its more environmentally friendly. ;) Absurd no?

    “when’s the last time that you were able to run something such as battlefield 2142 on a linux machine?”

  12. @dylan
    “but for the average user, windows or mac is the best option, both of those, you can walk into a store, and ligit or not, you can buy software for it and know it will work when you get home”

    Most linux distros come preconfigured with package repositories where you can DL all the software you want without ever leaving the house. So in a sense, by your argument, linux saves me the gas I’d burn on a trip to the store; not only further proving its overall lower cost of ownership, but its more environmentally friendly. ;) Absurd no?

    “when’s the last time that you were able to run something such as battlefield 2142 on a linux machine?”

  13. I too agree this is a good thing. I would suggest people in China to start using Linux and now more would listen. Having the web-surfing population in China covert to Linux is a huge gain for the open source community.

  14. Backfired? As with everything else in the world, you get what you pay for… Would you go screaming to Rolex if they refused to support a watch you bought from some dodgy guy on the street? Cheaper or not, Microsoft is a business and aims to support themselves on sales of legitimate software…. Hopefully this will have a carryon effect for other products, such as the shamelessly ripped off designs of hardware and equipment (google for pirated cisco hardware for example, or the piracy of the entire NEC brand)

  15. If they can’t afford to pay for an XP license, then something else is wrong here.

    -they can afford a computer
    -they can afford an internet connection
    -they can afford to waste time playing on the computer

    someone’s priorities are screwed up.

  16. I dunno if they still have the same policy, but I recall Microsoft used/uses a one-price policy. This means that the software costs the same price, when converted to US dollars, everywhere in the world. So in a country where people can pay rent for 1US dollar a month, it means that buying a legit copy of Microsoft costs them 3 years of rent. Think about it.

  17. Haha, 5rmb for a copy of windows. Rip off. I can get it for 1 rmb. And in the cities, most people are making more than 1000rmb a month (beginner office worker is about 2000rmb). Even factory workers have a minimum wage of 2100rmb or so, but only 825rmb of that has to be cash. The remaining 1275rmb can be food and rent (which doesn’t always end up costing 1275rmb, though it always appears that way on the books).

  18. What’s interesting about chinese piracy, compared to western on teh tubes of teh intarwebs, is that the chinese are willing to pay. instead of slurping it down from a bittorrent site, they’re paying cash in a marketplace.

    do you think, just maybe, that if microshaft sold their product in a market at a price the market was willing to bear, they’d have as big a piracy problem as they currently have?

  19. there is something no westerner seems to understand going on here.

    in most asian countries, nobody cares about who made something and if it’s legitimate or not. nobody cares if it’s legal or not. the police officers sent to look into these things don’t care. the judges in charge of the verdicts of this don’t care.the people who buy, sell, use, and crack the software don’t care. they just want to use it, they don’t care if it’s pirated or not.

    an example is, here, a pirated game costs 100 baht per disc, or 200 baht per DVD. that’s roughly 3 dollars for the first and just over 6 for the second. and this is for discs that you buy yourself, not- the other option- pirated software that you can have installed on your computer, for an average price of 15-20 baht per program (50-65 cents).

    legitimate software, on the other hand, costs upwards of a thousand baht. not a months wages, certainly, but enough to keep the players from being interested in them. also, due to some incredibly stupid (hey, it’s thai!) tax policies, game prices never go down, because if they do there is no way for the vendors here to make a profit. copies of splinter cell- the first one- still sell at about 56 USD. right next to the (pirated) fourth installment, which is selling for… 5 USD.

    Hmm.. this becomes a tough choice for westerners, but it’s a no brainier for the people here. one of these choices is economically possible. the other isn’t. end of story. until major software developers acknowledge this, pirated software will be rampant in asia because nobody will feel sorry for the greedy bastards trying to take more money than they have.

  20. Wierd. as the WGA cracks I got from 2 years ago completely stil lwork and I never see any of this crap.

    Hell I slipstream it into install CD’s I give out to people. There are at least 100 copies of XP pro that will never trigger they are illigit and even install all updates and go through WGA every time…

    Even cracking Vista is a no brainer… but nobody wants vista so it’s moot.

  21. Outside the US and Europe software piracy is rampant. I was in Argentina a few months ago and distant family members had zero concern with their computers being full of pirated stuff. Movies, TV, music, Ms-WinXP, MS-Office, the entire Adobe suite, it didn’t matter. There was zero concern about getting caught. The house computer ran bit torrent 24/7 when Skype wasn’t being used. They have DSL 1.5M/256k, so that’s 3M people in just 1 country probably pirating everything.

    They told me there business only bought software when that was the only way to get it.

    Microsoft is in a tough place. Too much nagging and companies will spend the time to change to Mac or Linux. Not enough and nobody will change.

    Just a thought for MS … start with a 2 second black screen. Every hour longer, make it 2 seconds longer. Add a button to purchase maintenance for $5/month. When bought, they stop the nagging for 31 days, then it starts over. After 2 years, they will have bought the OS at a locally acceptable cost.

  22. If you paid for your OS, you have a right complain when there is an issue. If you are running pirated software, you are – as the Chinese found out – up the creek without an OS. I hope they saved their pics and financial data on an external drive! Hehehehe

  23. i’m all for “the common man” having computers and the appropriate software to run them. however, that doesn’t mean he deserves them; nor should he go out and steal them. i want a lamborghini, but a new one would cost more than my house. if i stole one (or knowingly bought a stolen one), what right do i have to complain when it stalls regularly or just doesn’t start at all? why should i demand recourse?

  24. I want to see something called Chinux!

    There was a great article on counter-markets, essentially pointing out as software and music (mostly) get stricter about ephemeral “copyrights” there can be a “FOSS”ish counter market. Like I used Magnatunes to get music, instead of itunes, the money I choose to spend gets fairly split between the artist and the distributor and they aren’t hard up on how I use my digital copy.

    Likewise with software, I run Linux. Apple really isn’t a real alternative to Windows, it’s actually worse, not only do you have to buy their (ugly) software but they lock you into hardware too. I know they are getting better at being open but I could see this happening in China with apples installed on illegal hardware or illegal copies of the OS getting “hacked”.

    I’m no communist but digital “property” is the only product that can be shared in a communist fashion, so it seems unnatural to enforce the copyright system on it (which was more invented to keep bogus copies of books off the streets than it was to limit the distribution of them)

  25. I bought a new PC and instead of cashing out 150 EUR for Winslows I paid 2 EUR for KDE type linux CD. It does everything what I would have done with XP at home, but MUUUCH cheaper. So what is the point? The Chinese will release not Windows but Clindows and will continue play if they really want it, anyway…

  26. You know what, I say good for Microsoft. What boggles my mind is the 74% of windows is pirated in china. Maybe, just *maybe* the piracy of windows on the personal and private individual use could be “justified” but then what about all the companies doing business? It’s just not right.

  27. @42

    sure wine may be able to get bf2142 to work on linux, but how much hassle is it to get to work on an identical windows system? on window, i insert discs and give it a cd key (or click install if the install method is all electronic like with Steam for some games) and it just works. on linux, i have to install wine, install missing files, do special configuration, make sure graphics card has the right driver for the right kernel, make sure sound works, and hope i can play at the same settings with similar performance.

    contrary to what all you linux worhippers think and open source worshippers think, linux and open source IS NOT THE ONLY SOLUTION. i can’t stand it when i hear the typical reasons/excuses to go with linux or an open source alternative of: “it’s not made by microsoft”, “it’s free”, or “because it’s linux/open-source, it’s better”. is something truly free if you have to spend many hours of your time (how much is your time worth?) to get the same functionality as if you just went with the non-free version?

  28. Even with the latest malware remover and security patches windows doesn’t report any piracy home, at least not on update.

    They might have some ring0 rootkit that works through native TCP/IP services though. I doubt it though because people tear the drivers(tcpip.sys etc) and kernel apart all the time doing research etc..

    You gotta use that genuine advatage crap on the page update check though, and sometimes genuine advantage will show up in the update client and you have to ignore it.

  29. I’m surprised they’re not distributing better pirated editions of windows, really. It isn’t that hard to get a corporate edition going and manually update, which I did recently after losing my valid copy of the XP 64bit disc in a move. Granted the legit disc was a student edition so it cost me all of $5.00, but still…

  30. if there’s no profit to be made in china, perhaps m$ should stop translating the os to chinese dialects.
    if i run pirated software and it stops working or corrupts my work, i can whine, but i can’t expect to complain to the company who wrote the software.

  31. Microsoft And MAC will NEVER win the war on piracy. i pay for video games. i pay for internet. BUT i have NEVER paid for a legit copy of windows. XP nor vista… as for mac… i could get that in about 3 days VIA torrent… oh btw FUCK U APPLE… u try to charge people with criminal offences for installing somthing they bought onto a PC… the MAC OS is yours once u buy it aslong as you dont destribute it… u can fuck it for all u have… its yours… once i buy somthing ITS MINE… to do what i please with…

  32. @weed
    you are not buying the software. you are buying a license to use the software. and that license has certain requirements that the user has to abide buy in order to use the software legally. when you use the software you agree to be bound by those requirements or face certain penalties.

  33. I am sorry to say that I have nothing against the general chinese public using illegal copies of windows, and agree that they should be cheaper.

    What I completly disagree with was when I brought a computer from a reputable company (A Lenovo computer shop) in china and had an illegal copy of windows XP installed. I asked for a licence and all I was given was the package of an OEM install disk! The computers are at least the same price as here anyway!

    Many chinese do not actually know they are buying fake, they simply do not understand licences. The Lenovo shop tried very hard to convince us that it was in fact a licenced copy. Personally I think that microsoft should release cheaper products, educate the public, and sit down and talk with large suppliers. Lenovo is afterall a huge multinational computer company, is microsoft scared?

  34. It’s very easy to activate a pirate copy of Windows: just call the activation center. They will know you have a pirated copy, but if you insist that yours is legitimate, they have to activate it for you.

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