Microsoft South Africa MD Pfungwa Serima has launched the company’s biggest initiative yet to drive South African consumers to realise the benefits of genuine software, saying illegal software is costing consumers and partners “millions of rands” each year in lost productivity and poor security.
The Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), which kicks off on billboards and radio stations across the country this weekend, is aimed at combating software piracy and helping Microsoft’s partners provide genuine products and to improve the end-user experience.
“Our research suggests that almost half of those consumers who use counterfeit or unlicensed, software today, do so unknowingly,” says Serima. “Through our Genuine Software Initiative, we will be making significant investments in consumer education to raise awareness of the benefits of the real thing – and the risks of pirated software.”
Independent research suggests that more than 80% of the software in Africa is counterfeit, compared to 35% in the rest of the world where that number is closer to 35%. This costs the software industry, as a whole, almost $40 billion each year in lost revenues and jobs, according to Microsoft.
What that means for all software developers, not just Microsoft, is that that the loss is equivalent to the entire industry getting paid for only three of every five days worked. The economic impact to the industry is huge.
But beyond that, companies like Microsoft, which depend on its partner ecosystem, are concerned that partners don’t have a level playing field on which to compete.
“If a partner is bidding to sell 20 PCs, and the guy down the street is bidding on the same sale with counterfeit or pirated product, their cost is likely lower, and the honest reseller with genuine product will have a harder time making the sale,” says Serima.
“Our partners have asked us for help, and we feel a responsibility to respond. This is why we continue to support government involvement, industry policy organisations, and when appropriate, file civil actions against counterfeit resellers of our products.”
More importantly, says Serima, genuine, licensed, software users enjoy a range of benefits, including access to greater capabilities and easy integration with a variety of hardware, software, and services. Genuine, licensed users of software are able to access the latest product features, updates, and ongoing improvements to keep their PCs performing better. They also get access to additional add-ons and tools that make their computers run better and do more things, including useful downloads, add-ins, templates, learning tools and more.
“By the same token, fake software can put your computer – or in some cases, your entire business – at risk. That’s just false economy,” says Serima.
One of Microsoft’s areas of focus is on engineering new technologies to make software counterfeiting and piracy more difficult. The Software Protection Platform (SPP) built into Windows Vista and Windows Server "Longhorn," the forthcoming next generation of Microsoft’s server operating system, incorporates new anti-piracy technologies and tamper-resistant features that change the game for pirates.
It is easy for computer users to tell if their software is genuine or not. Microsoft offers an online validation process that allows users to verify that their software is genuine. Users are prompted to validate their copy of Windows if they request a genuine Windows download from the Microsoft Download Center, for example.
Alternatively, consumers can validate their software by visiting www.genuine.co.za. The validation process is easy to use, only takes a few moments to run, and once completed, allows users to access genuine downloads more quickly in the future.
The fight against piracy affects everyone in South Africa in some way or another. But it won't stop here, says Serima. “This is a long-term project for us,” he says. “It's important that customers get what they pay for, are fully licensed, and are experiencing the benefits of genuine software.
“We want to make sure we take thoughtful actions to reduce counterfeit and other forms of software piracy. We also want our genuine customers to have a great experience and to add extra value to the products through the add-ons available via the Genuine Advantage program. We will continue our efforts to raise awareness of the inherent risks of counterfeit software and help prevent counterfeiters and software pirates from taking advantage of our customers.”