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3/12/2007
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If You're Going To Steal Software, Steal From Us: Microsoft Exec

Microsoft business group president Jeff Raikes estimates that between 20% and 25% of all software used in the United States is pirated, but said some pirates end up becoming paying customers.

If you're going to be a software counterfeiter, then please copy and illegally use Microsoft products.

The above plea isn't from a posting on a hacker forum. Rather, it's how Microsoft business group president Jeff Raikes feels about software counterfeiters. "If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else," Raikes said.

The remarks might seem surprising, coming from a senior executive at a software company that spends millions each year fighting software piracy and developing copyright protection technologies.

But Raikes, speaking last week at the Morgan Stanley Technology conference in San Francisco, said a certain amount of software piracy actually helps Microsoft because it can lead to purchases by individuals who otherwise might never have been exposed to the company's products.

"We understand that in the long run the fundamental asset is the installed base of people who are using our products," Raikes said. "What you hope to do over time is convert them to licensing the software."

Raikes said Microsoft isn't about to abandon efforts to track down those who illegally copy and use its products. However, he said Microsoft has to balance that approach with the recognition that users of purloined software could one day become legitimate customers.

"You want to push towards getting legal licensing, but you don't want to push so hard that you lose the asset that's most fundamental in the business," said Raikes, who estimated that between 20% and 25% of all software used in the United States is pirated.

Raikes said Microsoft is developing so-called "pay-as-you-go" software offerings with pricing schemes similar to those used by cell phone companies for emerging markets as a way of encouraging low-income individuals to use the company's products legally.

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