Pirated versions of Microsoft programs are readily available in Phnom Penh stores.
Microsoft will not wage a war on piracy in Cambodia and will instead focus on cultivating a new generation of computer users loyal to the company, the American software giant said.
While Microsoft estimates about 98 percent of its products in Cambodia are bootlegs, the company can still make progress without targeting illegal production and distribution, according to Pily Wong, general manager of Microsoft’s office in Cambodia.
Microsoft can promote its software “by turning people onto it at a young age so they are familiar with the brand and how to use it,” Wong told the Post, predicting greater penetration of programs in the country, even if they are not the real McCoy.
“There can be education in Microsoft software. Even if people are using pirated software, when they get older they might be able to afford the genuine version,” he said.
Legal software costs several hundred dollars and up, while pirated copies sell for about $5 in markets.
There were rumors Microsoft was contemplating a piracy crackdown when the company launched its “Marketing Development Program for Cambodia” in March.
“Microsoft is working along with industry partners to make consumers aware of the increasing risks associated with acquiring and installing counterfeit software, such as exposure to critical issues and identify theft,” Wong said.
“But targeting piracy is not Microsoft’s mission,” he added.
“We’re a business. We’re not the police, we’re not the government. BSA (Business Software Alliance) is doing their job in other countries and it worked, and one day they might come to Cambodia.”
The Business Software Alliance is a privately funded trade group that represents a number of the world’s largest software makers, including Microsoft. Its principal activity is trying to stop copyright infringement – an activity it claims costs the software industry over $11 billion a year.
In March, Microsoft unveiled a market plan for Cambodia to take advantage of what it calls a “budding and opportunistic” environment for IT.
The company has teamed up with local retailers to improve technical support for buyers. It is also planning to provide training sessions for local universities and companies to improve their understanding of Microsoft products.
Wong said Microsoft will use a business model previously applied in Vietnam, where it first opened an office in 1996 and now earns around $10 million annually.
“Cambodia is a developing country with big potential,” Wong said. “Microsoft has had huge success in Vietnam, and the logical next step was to move to Cambodia.
“In Vietnam, the office started with five people and now it has around 160 ten years later.”
Wong said the growing number of computers in Cambodia – it estimates that growth at 25 percent a year – and age demographics, with about half the population under 20 years of age, were promising indicators for Microsoft’s entry.
The country’s economic growth and political stability also helped woo the company, he added.
“The country is very stable now and the government is really open to expanding the IT sector. They believe IT will help the country leap to catch up to its neighbors,” Wong said.
He added that Cambodia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which in theory holds Cambodia to enforcing international copyright laws, did not factor into Microsoft’s decision to set up shop in the Kingdom.