Sunday, 26 October 2008

Microsoft in China

The Telegraph reports yesterday (and a couple of days ago too, here) that Microsoft has been annoying Chinese users of counterfeit programs by causing their computers' screens to go black and display a message "admonishing" them. In response, 90 per cent of respondents in a survey by Chinese web portal said they would not buy Microsoft products again.

The emptiness of that threat was reduced somewhat by calls to develop Chinese software. It might take a while to overcome the head start that Microsoft have gained, but I dare say that China is one place where the resources to do that are to be found.

But why bother when there are acceptable alternatives to Microsoft everywhere, available for free (and therefore proof against piracy)? If Windows is really not acceptable to computer users in China, why don't they try Linux - and if they don't like it, adapt it until they do?

The problem stems from the perception that Microsoft charges too much for its products - perhaps taking advantage of the widespread use of programs like Word which use proprietary file formats and do not readily handle files created in other programs (or vice versa). The only major drawback with openOffice, as far as I have been able to discover, is that it does odd things to Word files. So when Microsoft stresses the importance of "respect for intellectual property rights", we might reasonably ask about its commitment to open file formats.

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