Is the Windows 7 adoption surge driven by piracy?

The surge of Windows 7 market share in October certainly sounds like good news for Microsoft. But Microsoft shouldn't celebrate so quickly, because there's evidence much of that gain has been driven by widespread piracy in Eastern Europe.

Computerworld reports that Windows 7 market share jumped almost 40% in the week right after its release, as measured by Net Applications.

For the week after Microsoft launched Windows 7 on Oct. 22, the new operating system's share averaged 2.66%, a jump of more than 39% over the 1.91% average for the part of October prior to its retail release.

Windows 7's peak of 3.48% on Saturday, Oct. 31, represented an even larger 82% increase over the average of Oct. 1 through Oct. 22. For the month, Windows 7 finished with a market share of 2.15%, up 41% over the 1.52% for September. The numbers from Net Applications mean that about one in every 44 personal computers was running Windows 7 last month.

But the Net Applications report also found the biggest Windows 7 market share, as measured by percentage of market, is in Eastern European countries. Those countries are rife with pirating. Computerworld says:

Of the top 25 countries by Windows 7 usage, 17 are in Eastern Europe or formerly part of the U.S.S.R. Slovenia, where 7.8% of the computers ran Windows 7 last month, led the list, followed by Lithuania in the No. 3 spot (6.5%), Rumania as No 4 (6%) and Latvia at No. 5 (6%). In Russia, at No. 21, 4.2% of all machines used Windows 7.

The article goes on to say that the implication that Windows 7 market share is driven by piracy in Eastern Europe

is backed up by data from a May 2009 report generated by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an industry-backed anti-piracy organization, and research firm IDC. In 2008, the piracy rate in Central and Eastern Europe was the highest of all seven regions the BSA and IDC tracked.

Some of the actual numbers of pirated software are staggering. Slovenia had an estimated piracy rate of 47% last year, and "Lithuania, Rumania, Latvia and Russia, meanwhile, had piracy rates of 54%, 66%, 56% and 68%, respectively," Computerworld says.

When it comes to software, piracy may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it does nothing for Microsoft's bottom line. So while Microsoft should be very happy about the Windows 7 uptake following launch, it shouldn't be counting its rubles just yet.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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