Before you say I am being ridiculous by offering you this idea, you should check out this blog post by Larry Dignan to convince yourself that if you are the “right” type of customer, Microsoft is indeed willing to sell you a software license for these product for a overall cost of $3. To be the right customer you must be in developing countries, and your government must agree to subsidise $1.50 towards the license.
This is of course Microsoft attempt to resegment the market to carve out another segment for developing countries in response to competition pressure. It works to reduce rampant piracy in developing countries. No longer can government relies on high cost of Microsoft product as the “justification” for not policing piracy. Microsoft is indeed extending them an olive branch by providing extremely low cost solution, abeit Windows Starter Edition is crippleware, and Office might be one as well. If I were a developing country’s government official. It’s tempting. The only question for me is is the overall payment I have to fork out, e.g. $150,0000 for 100,000 still too high a price compared to the free alternatives which allows me to get use that money to get hardware instead? The other moral dilemma that I will have is why should I subsidise something to make it affordable for my people but knowing that in the long run they probably will pay more then if the alternatives are there and cost less. Obviously, if I am corrupted, crossing my palm with silver will help!
The actual cost to the purchaser is probably going to be around $1.70, including 20 cents for backup disc which is a necessity. Even if the purchaser can burn a backup themselves, most will not do so until the unthinkable happens. (Cue Sony: Why did you just throw in back up DVD for your high end notebooks?)
I wonder what will the developed countries counterpart feels when they find out their peers in developing countries have access to cheaper products? Will it usher in the era where software companies cannot charge a premium on their software? Lets wait and see.