May 8, 2002

Backlash against Microsoft intensifies in Taiwan

Andy Tai writes: "According to this Taipei
Times editorial
and other Chinese media reports,
Microsoft's dominance, high prices, and its
association with a government crackdown on software
piracy is causing a strong anti-MS backlash in
Taiwan, Republic of China. Under the threats of US
trade sanctions (the "Special 301 Watch"), Taiwan is
currently carrying out an intense crackdown on
software piracy which has created an atmosphere of
terror in businesses, local government
agencies and schools, who may face BSA audits and have
to come up with millions of dollars to pay (mostly
Microsoft) license fees. Students are quitting
computer classes (because they cannot pay for required
MS software) and organizing the "anti-anti-piracy
movement." The National Teachers' Association demands
that Microsoft not to bill schools for the use of MS
software, or it will call a boycott of MS products.

PFP (People First Party, the second largest
opposition party in Taiwan) legislators accuse
Microsoft of allowing and using piracy of MS products
to corner the market, and after gaining total
dominance, now using the government as a "bill
collection agency" to force software users to pay
arbitrary high prices. According to this Taipei
Times article
and this
news.com article
, these charges lead to
investigation of Microsoft by the Fair Trade
Commission for "(abusing) its software monopoly to
manipulate prices" or profiteering. PFP legislators
accuse the Minister of Judicial Affairs of favoritism
toward MS and are demanding the crackdown to be halted
until the outcome of this investigation. Other local
media reports that this crackdown is encouraging
significant migration
to GNU/Linux based products.

MS Taiwan's initial response: "If you use
software, you pay." Later as gesture to the growing
protest, MS is offering non-profit organizations to
license MS software for one Taiwan dollar (about 3 cents in US dollars) per copy through
June, down from the standard price of more than 10000
Taiwan dollars (for MS Office). (US$1 = 34 Taiwan
dollars) Local media, in turn, questions how can
"intellectual property" be priced properly, citing MS's wild
price change.

Taiwan is no stranger to the PC industry, having
contributed in a major way to the formation of the
current "PC ecosystem." But trying to copy MS's
favorite "PC ecosystem" from the US? Just look at the
price Taiwan is paying."

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