Steve Ballmer was in a meeting with the president of China, and has made the news for claiming that 90% of Microsoft software in China is being used by people who didn’t pay Microsoft for a license.
I have no idea how accurate their estimate is or exactly how they got it, but that’s not something I’m worried about here.
Most of the articles that I’ve seen about it are more focused on what could be done to fix this. They particularly focus on issues like whether China’s government itself will take more action to cut down on the use of unlicensed software.
There’s another question here, though. Statistics from just a couple of months ago still show that 45.2% of Internet users in China are using IE6. Considering that you can’t run IE6 on the latest Microsoft operating systems, they’re not just using software that they haven’t paid Microsoft for, they’re using really old software that they haven’t paid Microsoft for.
If the company gets the crackdown that they want, what’s going to happen to their market share? We’re talking about a large population of people who are used to not having to pay for their operating system and aren’t already accustomed to using the most modern versions of Windows. A crackdown would put them in the position of having to pay money they’re not used to paying for software that’s gone through some fairly major interface changes compared to what they’re used to using.
Cracking down will probably get some people to pay, but others may very well decide to have a look at the alternatives that are still free. Depending on how the people of China feel about Microsoft demanding that they pay up, this could have serious implications for the company’s market share.