China: Microsoft vs. netizens

Microsoft’s controversial launch of Windows Genuine Advantage software in China brought panic to a huge number of piracy users in the country.

In China, a genuine Windows software costs over 1000 RMB, about the monthly GDP per person. On the other hand, any pirate Windows hawked all over streets only take you 5 RMB, less than $1. Futhermore, pirate Windows is identical with the genuine in almost any feature as it can updat via internet, has better appearance (for example, the famous pirate version “tomato garden”), and therefore is by no means inferior. This leads to the overwhelming advantage of piracy over the genuine. In, an online poll shows 74.28% of the participants, 440711 totally are using pirate Windows. (till 21, Oct)

Now with the WGA, plus OGA directed at pirate Microsoft Office, your computer would be pestered as if attacked by hackers: first, your screen will blackout every 60 minutes. Second, a reminder will continuously pop out to warn that you are using a pirate software. It sounds quite like that a big brother is watching you.

Panic is the first reaction of computer users in China. In the city Shengyang, north China, journalists found that the sales record of genuine Windows had surged by 50% even before the WGA and OGA came into effect. In Beijing, a salesperson told that shareholders who transact online have swarmed over to buy the genuine Windows in case that their business might be affected.

Actually, however, the WGA cannot be implemented until Windows automatically download from the internet a package specific for the function. Other than the uninformed users, more people chose to shut down the Windows Update to avoid WGA once for all. Many geeks have been itching to find a way breaking through WGA’s blockade.

Beyond panic, Chinese users poured anger upon Microsoft, with tons of reasons to justify their disregard of the copyright. In the poll on Tencent, 77.48%of 459944 people vote against WGA. On discussion boards and blogs, it’s not uncommon to see netizens rail against Microsoft.

Columnist blogger Liang Ding wrote on a regional portal Jingchu:


The black-out plan of Microsoft sucks

中国成为微软盗版操作系统天堂(多数个人用户使用盗版已是公认的事实),与伊始微软为迅速打开并占据中国市场,对盗版睁一只眼,闭一只眼的默认是有极大关 系,如今成了绝对霸主,再杀个回马枪,怎么看都像过河拆桥之举;另一方面,微软令人诟病的高定价策略,十来年前,其操作系统的定价甚至超过了在欧美国家的 价格,几乎相当于一般中国人大半年的工资,如此策略,叫网民买“正版”有可能嘛?

The fact that China is a paradise for pirate Windows is closely associated with Microsoft.At the very beginning when it attempted to take over Chinese market, it acquiescence the existence of piracy. Today, since it has come to have the dominance on the market, Microsoft decided to root out piracy, kicking down the ladder by which it rose up to the hegemony. Meanwhile, it sells Windows in a ridiculously high price, almost equal to our yearly income for one copy. With such a price strategy, how could it be possible to call on netizens to buy the genuine Windows?

He furthermore pointed out that


The use of piracy could be interpreted as a fight against illegitimate hegemony, because Microsoft sticks to its high-price strategy with the back of its monopoly. Moreover, Microsoft cannot override the so many end-users in China, because they are much distributed.

A more radical point comes from a reply of Liang Ding’s article,

同意以上观点!微软还是不要惹火烧身为好!就算比尔给世界上的贫困阶层做一点儿微 不足道的社会公益事业吧!你们赚那么多钱干什么用?老百姓不用新技术,你们的新技术如何推陈出新?知识共享的时代快要到来了,你们还是多做一点贡献,这样 更有利于世界大同!狡猾的没有德行的美国人一边用枪炮公开侵略掠夺世界一边幕后黑箱操作、买空卖空、坑梦拐骗,还用实物贸易赚了中国人两万亿美元的产品, 给我们的却是日日贬值的一堆废纸!何其无耻!

I fully agree with you! Microsoft had better not get itself troubles! Bill Gates you just do some public good to the poor in the world! Why do you earn so much money? …… the age of sharing knowledge is coming, you’d better contribute more to building a harmonious world! Foxy Americans, on the one hand is invading the world with guns, on the other hand is looting the world with speculation, swindle and international trade. In the trade you earn two trillion of products from China but only give back a pile of waste paper value-decreasing day-to-day. Shame on you!….

Few people would think Microsoft can win the war under the waves of rage. So is there any way out for Microsoft?

Playin’ with IT posted his quiz online to show what people prefer to see from Microsoft.

1. 默许盗版,让所有收入不高的人,都可以接触最新的科技
2. 默许盗版,可以达到永远压制国内软件产业和开源产业发展的目的
3. Windows永久免费,将中国区作为一个特别区,试验新的商业模式
4. 停止开发中文版产品,永远放弃中国市场
5. 严打盗版,恢复软件产业的良性发展,同时也为竞争产品留出市场

1 acquiesce piracy, to let all the low-income enjoy high-tech
2 acquiesce piracy, to forever press upon Chinese local software industry
3 Window for free forever, but make China a special zone to develop new business mode.
4 stop developing Chinese product. Give up China
5 strike piracy, restore normal development of software industry, and give room to competitors.

The result is, the choice 3 win an overwhelming support.

But Microsoft is not likely to take this advice. A hard battle is looming. Microsoft vs. millions of piracy users, international corporation vs. developing state, who will win the final victory?


  • ocram

    Mac Book Pro

    that’s all that’s required.

  • Mike

    HAh! Linux and viable in the same sentence! Got my friday laugh…the Chinese are poor, not stupid.

  • Every 60 minutes? Thats panic? Anyone using a computer for 60 minutes strait, should take a small break. Next, a very good percentage of windows users have trojans and viruses that bug them every minute, So how is this, your windows pirated bugging them even more?

    If this is panic to you, well good luck in this world, and take a chillax pill.

  • Neddy

    @Mike – Linux IS viable. Note I do not say it’s “better”. I find that MOST of of complaints about Linux come from people who think that since Linux is not “like Windows”, it cannot be any good. Fear of the unknown, having to learn new tricks, and so forth… Well, Linux is NOT Windows. Get used to it.

    @GrahamPhisher – You got me laughing; how true! So many othervise savvy computer users in China, yet how come I met so many of them who failed to take even basic precautions against viruses, etc. A miracle that their computers kept working at all!

    OK, I already said piracy wass not on, in principle. I also said that Microsoft was no ordinary victim. Its wealth and market domination does not, primarily, come from innovation, but from their business strategies. They charge for their product on the basis of “what the market will bear”. In China, they tolerated piracy because there was nothing they could do about it, anyway.

    Now they think they got the Chinese users hooked to the point where they can MAKE them pay, or else! I do not pretend to know what will happen next, but obviously Chinese would have to put up with it. Or look for alternatives, thus exerting pressure on MS to change its ways. That’s where other OSs come in. They do not need to “win”; just dent MS’s hegemony enough for it to come back down to earth, and actually compete.

  • laowai

    its very annoying seeing Chinese people who have spent several thousands RMBs buying computers resisting to pay Microsoft JUST 1 thousand RMB for operating system.and above all the government supporting them.THIS is very would CHINA feel if one Chinese government develop a product,sell it by 1 thousand RMB in china and when they export it to US or EUROPE then people there demands that the price be 10 RMB or something.that is ridiculous!!there are LINUX and other free distros around there.IF YOU THINK you are poor and you can’t afford a windows OS then LINUX will do everything that XP or VISTA does.stop the useless noises for XP or VISTA to get cheaper.MICROSOFT set those prices according to their market outlook.if Chinese people think the price is unfair i suggest they create their own OS if they don’t appreciate Gates work.even if they distribute it for free no one will ask them nothing

    If china boast about its high reserve rates and it being a superpower then it should act accordingly and stop the hypocrisy

  • Ted Williams

    Any argument that I have read against Microsoft does not make sense. If people think that Microsoft would lose a legal battle over this, they are wrong. This is something that they are well within their right to do under the End User License Agreement for their product. Rest assured that a move like this was not made lightly and will have the full legal backing that it requires. One of the people in the articles circulating is outraged that Microsoft is \taking over their hardware\ when in fact it is doing nothing more than protecting it’s software OS which has little really to do with the hardware.

  • […] Cheap and legal has proven to be a reasonably promising strategy in more developed markets; it’s been working for iTunes, to greater or lesser degrees. In emerging markets where consumers are much less affluent but no less eager, it’s wishful thinking to expect similar successes. China’s (and India’s) nascent consumer cultures are already very comfortable with cheap or free bootleg software; just ask Microsoft. […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site