How come China gets MS Office for only $29?

In order to take a bite out of piracy, Microsoft sells copies of its Office Suite in China for just $29 dollars. I wonder how many copies Americans would have to pirate to get the same price? So much for the notion that “crime does not pay!”

I found the pricing information earlier today in a BusinessWeek story about how Microsoft is slashing prices to grab market share and fight off Google and the others that are giving away functionality Microsoft customers are used to paying for.

The magazine said Microsoft estimates 95 per cent of all copies of Office used in China are illegal copies. Since the $29 pricing started in September, sales of Office have supposedly increased 800 per cent.

This looks like a case of where crime pays big dividends. And, no, I am not suggesting for readers to pirate copies of Office in order to send Redmond a pricing message.

Still, we Westerners have been paying through the nose for Office for almost two decades. If anyone deserves a price break, it’s us–not the thieving Chinese. But, it seems that if you are a fast-growing market, lawlessness aside, Microsoft wants to cut you a deal.

I understand what Microsoft is doing and why. I am happy for anything that reduces software theft, but that doesn’t make me nearly as happy as a $29 copy of Office would.


This pricing is another demonstration of how Microsoft’s business model is under attack, especially in the consumer and small business space. Its enterprise business isn’t as solid as it used to be, either, as big corporate customers are remarkably happy with the software they are already using.

These changes haven’t caught Redmond quite as flat-footed as when Netscape first arrived on the scene, forcing Microsoft to Internet-enable products at warp speed.

The company has doubtless seen the current market turmoil coming for years, but had little reason to tip its hand. Microsoft clearly needs be more responsive with its pricing and find better ways to compete globally. I guess giving the Chinese $29 copies Microsoft Office is a part of this.

This is still more Microsoft angst we will just have to live with.

Industry veteran David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web page.

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