The news this week that pirated copes of Longhorn are doing the rounds in market stalls in Malaysia was pretty surprising in itself given the next incarnation of Windows isn't actually due to ship till 2006. More surprising still, however, are the comments Microsoft gave out on the back of the story -- warning consumers that the pirated code "is not a ready product", and that it would be "very risky" to load the software on a machine.
Talk about stating the obvious. Given the amount of bugs in the average piece of Microsoft gold code, warning consumers that a pre-alpha product might be "risky" is like the UK Foreign office telling tourists that package tours to Tikrit might be "risky".
This is not the first time a Microsoft product has found itself onto the Asian black market before its official release. Pirated copies of Windows XP were already doing the rounds in Malaysia in September 2001 even though the product wasn't actually due to officially hit Asian stores until the end of October the same year. One industry watcher at the time claimed piracy will always be tough to stop in Malaysia because "the root of the problem is and always will be corruption."
The Malaysian government has gone some way to trying to curb the rampant piracy that affects not only software but CDs and other consumables by imposing its own price controls in an effort to price the pirates out of business. In June this year, Malaysian authorities claimed they would have to take "drastic measures" to curb illegal copies as the software and recording industries had been taking "their own sweet time" to act. The plan is to place software and CDs under the same price controls that govern essential products such as rice and sugar, as the authorities feel that the pricesd charge for DVDs and CDs are forcing buyers to opt for cheaper pirated substitutes.
This predictably has not gone down well with Microsoft, and its friends at the anti-piracy group the Business Software Alliance, who claim that trying to compete with the pirates on price is never going to work. "It is by changing mindsets that we achieve the most lasting change. People have to understand that morally and ethically it is wrong to use pirated software," said the Ajay Advani, chair of BSA Malaysia.