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Aargh! Microsoft to Pirates: Bring 'Em On

If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us. Who would have thought that would have come out of a Microsoft exec's mouth last week? No, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Business Division, hasn't suddenly sided with free software activist Richard Stallman. He's just a shrewd businessman who tellingly finished t
"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us." Who would have thought that would have come out of a Microsoft exec's mouth last week? No, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft Business Division, hasn't suddenly sided with free software activist Richard Stallman. He's just a shrewd businessman who tellingly finished that statement with "rather than somebody else.""It's always a delicate balance, because what you want to do is 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," Raikes added.

So it's all part of the plan. Get them using the software, and hopefully later we'll make our technology better and/or gradually change the laws in Russia, China and Brazil so that once they're hooked, they've got to become a paying customer for the next version. Clearly, that's much better for Microsoft than simply laying the hammer and having computer users in those countries move en masse to Apple or Linux.

However, that said, Vista's been available for three months now, and one of the big stories swirling around is how Microsoft intends to stop software pirates from stealing its software. CEO Steve Ballmer even gave the problem of pirates several minutes of due in a meeting with financial analysts last month.

So when a Microsoft president infers piracy, while unwanted and harmful, actually may have a bright side over the long run, it shouldn't come without being noted. "We understand the fundamental asset is the install base of people who are using our products," Raikes said.

In some respects, he's right. Even if you're pirating software, that's just one more person who's using the Microsoft platform, building the market for development. Then again, Microsoft's already a multi-billion dollar company with little chance at this point of being killed by software pirates. Is this instead just Raikes' "bring em on" moment?