Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Software Piracy: Good for Software Makers?

Before you start reading this, you should know that I am against stealing of any sort – that includes software. It hurts the industry, which hurts the companies, and it hurts the employees working for those companies. And, in general, it’s a bad idea. Companies, especially, should never pirate software.

With that said, software piracy can be a good thing – sometimes.

I personally own an academic version of Windows XP for my desktop, which means I paid a heck of a lost less than the almost $200 price tag Uncle Bill wants for it. I also have whatever version of XP came with my new laptop – it’s legit.

Many of my friends, however, have taken to pirating versions of Microsoft products, including, but not limited to, Windows and Office. Though Uncle Bill may not like this in the short term, he will probably be better off for it in the long run.

Why? It’s simple. When my friends and I go out into the business world, we will take with us the “urge” to use Microsoft products. When we acquire the power to influence software decisions – whether we are software developers, network admins, or just bean counters – we will demand Microsoft. And businesses will shell out the big bucks to buy legit versions. Why? Because it is what we have become accustomed to. We have known nothing but Microsoft for most of our computing existence – it’s a name we trust, we find it easy to use, and compatible with all the programs and games we have ever known.

Imagine a world where Microsoft made it absolutely impossible to pirate – forcing only those with ready-made systems or deep pockets able to afford and use Windows and Office. Those of us [geeks] who like to build our own system would be left pondering the question: “where do you want to go today?” And answer with: “somewhere in the realm of free, like Linux”.

Yes, Linux – Uncle Bill’s worst nightmare.

The irony, of course, is that the more money Microsoft tries to squeeze out of consumers, the more consumers will squeeze back.

With my apologies to Linux fans, it is just not ready for the everyday user. It seriously lags behind in terms of user friendliness and compatibility. About the only thing it has going for itself (other than being free) is its claimed superior stability.

This can change rather quickly, however, if more people were forced to join the Linux community by being priced out of the Windows market.

Software piracy is a double-edge sword. Software companies better be careful what they wish for – they might just get it.


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