Microsoft might be counting on you to consider a heavily discounted version of Windows 8 to be superior to a free, pirated version of Windows 7. Whether or not people genuinely want an upgrade, the chance to convert has been a temptation among students and techies.
Days after the October 2012 launch of Windows 8 in India, there was excitement online as students and IT professionals chanced upon pirated versions of Windows 8 Pro. To this day, it is possible to download Windows 8 torrents from various sites, but Microsoft seems to be banking on the honest side of people to turn to a legitimate download. So much so that it turned a blind eye to users of pirated versions of Windows XP and Windows 7 who chose to upgrade to Windows 8 online.
At the time of the launch, Microsoft invited consumers running PCs with Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs. 1,999 (opposed to Rs 11,999) -- this offer will expire tomorrow, January 31, 2013. Users with Windows 7 PCs purchased between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 were invited to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs. 699 through an official Windows Upgrade Offer. The registration for the upgrade can be done up to the end of February. In contrast, an upgrade DVD is priced at Rs 3,449.
While the process that followed should have weeded out users of pirated Windows OS users, it did not do so initially. Many users were able to get Windows 8 Pro at a discounted price without having to prove they owned a licensed copy of Windows 7. There was no prompt asking for the key. The form that needs to be filled out only asks for the PC brand and model and date of purchase which many users have faked to successfully obtain a promo code.
Just when that glitch was set right, there surfaced reports of another loophole in the limited time offer for a free Windows 8 Media Center Pack product key. Users who were trying out the 180-day free trial of Windows 8 for enterprises through the key management service got a non-trial version of Windows 8 installed for free when they made a request for the free Media Center Pack.
Debate raged over whether the incidents were genuine mistakes or deliberate oversight given that 63 percent of the software in use in India is pirated. While Microsoft has refrained from commenting openly on the issue of piracy, late-comers who missed cashing in on the offers were advised by Microsoft to hold on for more promotions. Could Microsoft be trying to convert pirate users?
The move -- even if unwitting -- will help to target individual users of pirated Windows OS who may have veered towards open-source had the software leader cracked the whip. With the price of software being prohibitive for many, piracy is rampant in India. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) in partnership with software companies conducts raids mostly on enterprises, cracking down on use of pirated software for commercial purposes. According to the 2011 Global Software Piracy Study by BSA, 20 percent of respondents in India admitted to acquiring software illegally "all of the time," "most of the time," or "occasionally," while 23 percent said they do it "rarely." Meaning, more than six out of 10 software installed were unlicensed. Business decision makers in SMBs and enterprises have both admitted to buying pirated software as well as running single licensed software on multiple machines.
Consumers have long been demanding an "India price" (discount) to use licensed software. A softer pricing policy may be the only weapon that the software company can deploy to tap the market potential in the long term.