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Community: Let's Help Microsoft!

Apr 17, 2006, 23:30 (21 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Joachim Holst)

[ Thanks to Joachim Holst for this article. ]

I don't want to start a flame war here, I only want to put a thought out to the community, a suggestion to increase the popularity of GNU/Linux and other F/OSS software.

I reckon that the greatest reason so many people still use Microsoft products is because it's so easy to "crack" and pirate the software. In several articles in the media, I've seen that Microsoft is working hard to come to grips with software piracy.

Why don't we the F/OSS community put our heads together and create a piece of software that basically makes it impossible to install an illegal copy of a Microsoft product and then give the code to Microsoft?

Why do this, you ask? Well, I see it like this. In the Western world where we live, not much will happen. Most of us can afford a copy of Microsoft products (students not included). But the real impact will come in developing countries and the reason for this is simple.

According to several studies, most software that is run on computers in developing countries is pirated software. This is probably mostly due to cost. Here in Sweden, I can get hold of a pretty good computer (not a gaming system) for around €300 [US$368]. That's only the hardware without a display. I can probably find a nifty display for around €100 [US$123]. That's a total of €400 [US$491].

Then, to get it working, I need another €400 for software if I want to be legit and run Microsoft products (WinXP and MS Office, antivirus, and firewall solution). The last part hurts my wallet!

In developing countries things are worse! Just the cost of the above computer alone is probably several months' wages. They don't have the economy to use the latest and greatest hardware and even less money to buy a copy of any MS product, so they pirate the stuff.

If it's impossible to install a pirated copy of the software, users will be forced to use something else. Enter GNU/Linux and other F/OSS software. Once this happens, those packages will become the de facto standard and we (the Western world) will have a better incentive to comply with those standards if we want to do business with the developing countries. (Which we will want to do because of the eternal search for even more money than we have.)

In the long term, it would also be a great idea here, in that students who don't have the money to buy a copy of MS products will also have to use other stuff (F/OSS again). This will force universities to support those systems and in general base all teachings on them. This would in turn spread to our companies because the students want to use what they are used to.

We would also be the good guys that actually help Microsoft stem the software piracy and make a bundle of money (at least a little while). This would generate lots of good PR for the community like "Hey, they helped Microsoft with their piracy problem. Those folks can't be all that bad. Let's see what it's all about!"

Personally I think that this is the way to go and I'm convinced that the community has all the brains, know-how, and willpower that is needed for such a project.

Best regards, and my deepest thanks to all F/OSS developers out there who make my computer life worth living,
Joachim Holst

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