The pirated software is readily available at night markets around the city as well as open-air foodstalls and walkways in suburbs such as Petaling Jaya and Bangsar.
In an interview today, a Kuala Lumpur-based IT consultant, who requested anonymity, said that he paid RM10 for a single, Office XP Professional CD which comes with Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002, Outlook 2002 and FrontPage 2002 for Web authoring.
He claimed that pirated copies of Office XP have been available in Kuala Lumpur "before April".
"Once the newsgroups started posting the code, I knew that someone would port it to CDs and start selling them," he said.
When contacted, Microsoft Malaysia's Moses Wan said that the company was aware of such pirated copies in the open market.
The product manager for Desktop Productivity also noted that Office XP code was illegally posted on newsgroups a "few weeks ago" but was later removed.
"Although there has been speculation that the build was final code (Release to Manufacturing or RTM) , Microsoft cannot comment on the integrity of the code as we were not able to view it prior to its removal from the Web site," Wan said.
And while the software giant is aware that illegal copies of Office XP are readily available in Kuala Lumpur, the company has yet to lodge a report with the local authorities. "We are investigating to gather information to file a complaint," said Kenny Cheung, a legal associate with Microsoft's Law and Corporate Affairs Department based in Singapore.
However, Cheung stressed that the pirated software were definitely beta versions as Microsoft has yet to release the final code. The company is expected to officially launch Office XP in the US on May 31.
But beta or not, the product works fine, says the IT consultant who has tried and tested the illegal copy.
Microsoft officials say that Office XP, in Malaysia, would cost about RM2,000 (US$526), or close to the retail price of Office 2000.
Malaysia is currently on the Priority Watch List of the US Trade Representatives office, which means that if insufficient action is taken to curb software piracy in the country, there is a risk of trade sanctions, warned Microsoft's Wan.