In the last few days the Business Software Alliance has released the BSA Global Software Piracy Study for 2008. The study establishes piracy rates for all packaged software products in over 100 countries. This year's results were mixed with over half of the countries included seeing their rate decline. The rates also declined for many of the large high-piracy markets like China, Russia, India and Brazil. But while the rates declined individually for each of these markets they're large enough to push up the overall rate as the growth of these markets continues to outpace others in the world. For this reason the overall rate grew this year from 38% to 41%.

In many ways, the conclusions and logic are not surprising - high piracy markets are growing faster than low piracy markets so the overall piracy rate goes up.  But a few things about the study piqued my interest and I wanted to share my thoughts on.  Once again, I was reminded of the global/local dynamic of the challenge - while improvements can be made in one area, they are often outweighed by piracy advancements in other areas.  We spend a lot of time thinking about both very local approaches - working with local officials, providing benefits for genuine users tailored to local markets, and identifying local partners with whom we can work.  But we also think globally - what engineering changes can we make in our products (such as our recent announcement of Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7) that will work across every geography where Windows is available.

As mentioned above, the study attributed most of the growth in piracy to the growth in emerging markets, and cited a continued emphasis on intellectual property rights as key to minimizing piracy growth.  While we certainly agree with that, we also think that there is more we need to do.  Sometimes in high piracy markets it can be challenging to even find genuine software and be confident that it is in fact genuine and not just a high quality counterfeit. Having spent the last week in China I can say that while genuine software is readily available there's not as much of it as there should be and it can sometimes be hard for the customer to know what to look for to be confident that they're really getting what they paid for.

I also wanted to point out that while we don't release specific piracy rates for Windows we have historically described them as broadly in line with the rates for overall software piracy as documented in this annual study. This is the first year that I can recall that our internal estimates are diverging from the overall rate. This year we have seen our estimates of piracy of Windows not increase with the overall BSA rates. We believe this is a result of more partners wanting to work with us, more customers checking if their software is genuine, and generally more demand for a genuine product.   We believe if you focus your program on delivering a good customer experience and helping your partners and resellers to provide better service and deliver a better experience, make genuine product easy to obtain, and help customers who have been victims of software piracy you can make a positive difference for your customers, partners and your business. I believe that's what we've seen happen over the last year.

-Alex