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The fact that Microsoft depends on piracy of its software to reach its point of market dominance seems to be so obvious that it doesn't need to be written. However, the mechanics of this operation may not be quite as obvious to others as they are to me. I am in a fairly unique position to understand the man on the streets understanding of computer hardware & software and how they interact.

I am not an anti-windows zealot, although I have stopped using Windows on my home computer. However, like most people, when I did use Windows, it was for one reason: convenience. If you ask people why they use Windows, you will not hear many answers about its stability, security, (both of which have improved) or intuitive user interface, or its great artistic appeal. No, the reason people use Windows is "everyone uses it". There are some people who think its user interface is intuitive, but it is merely that it is what they are used to. There is a great deal of software written for Windows, again due to its omnipresence. So the fact that Windows is everywhere is what leads to Windows being everywhere. Yes, I know this is a circular definition. Many of the people who use Windows also know this is a circular definition, but continue to use it anyway.

Why is Windows everywhere? Because, on a Street Level, copies of Windows and some of the more popular applications for it, such as Microsoft Office, are passed around like those little rave flyers or tootsie rolls. People casually burn and copy CDs of home versions of Microsoft products. Of course, it doesn't hurt matters that every computer coming from a major company has Windows installed. And in a few years, when you need to upgrade, you can borrow a CD. And, if you don't want to pay full price, your brother in law that knows something about computers can build you a computer and put Windows on it. This goes on all the time. Many people don't even know that it is illegal. Most people don't know that you don't "own" Windows, that what you have done is signed a contract with Microsoft to use its software. Why should they? It is not like Microsoft is in the habit of prosecuting people for giving their friend a copy of Office. Part of this is that it would be almost impossible to catch everyone who does this. But I think that Microsoft also wants to encourage home users to think of their software as omnipresent. If people actually stopped to make a decision, would they really choose a $300 copy of Microsoft Office over a free copy of Open Office?

So what is in it for Microsoft, is so much of their home users are happily copying software, sometimes unaware that this is illegal? What is in it is that if you have a 23 year old who has just graduated college, he has spend the years from 10 to 18 playing games and trading IMs on a Windows computer. Then, from 18 to 22, he was working in college, using Microsoft Word and Powerpoint for their school work. When he gets a job as, say, a data entry clerk for a bank, he is going to know Windows and its common applications. Which means that that bank is not going to think twice about paying a license fee of several hundreds of dollars for Windows, and several hundreds of dollars more for Office and other common applications, as well, per computer. That is around 500 dollars a computer, which is money that adds up fast.

I can figure this out. Most of the people reading this can probably see the logic of what I am saying and agree with it, at least a little. I am sure the logic of this plan has not escaped the upper levels of Microsoft, although I don't know if there is a secret memo outlining this plan. I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

It is actually a fairly good plan, and theoretically, no one gets hurt. The biggest crack in the plan occurs when someone moves from the field of common usage to using Microsoft in a corporate or institutional setting, and has to be told that you can not just copy and transfer Windows programs at will, but that you actually have to follow a rather strict set of accountings for your contractual obligations. Many people I have explained this to either simply don't believe me, or don't believe that at the corporate level, you have to take the EULA seriously.

My basic argument remains: Microsoft is aware of, and perhaps encourages, the street level promiscuity of its software, as a way to continue its monopoly.

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