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SOAPBOX: Ahoy there me hearties

SOAPBOX: Ahoy there me hearties

As the managing director of Micro Knox, a software development and consulting company, I am committed to fighting to support our products. I dread the thought of someone copying any of our packages and using them without paying for it.

Hence, when I saw the first page of ARN [April 25] and read the small article titled "Microsoft to keel-haul . . .", I really felt the need to ask some questions, to the likes of Microsoft as well as to the BSAA. They are as follows:

1) The software that we all know is "pirated" is mainly from the mainstream companies like Microsoft, CA, Symantec, and so on. Some say it is "costing" the economy $150 million a year. Who is the "economy"?

2) How much of that amount is actually staying in Australia and not being apportioned to the main company in the US or wherever it happens to be?

3) In contrast, how much will it cost the "economy" if all small businesses really purchased legal copies of what they are using (I know that we do because we are software developers, but as for our clients . . .).

4) Since having legal copies of software does not actually improve anyone's productivity or profitability, the money required to purchase and upgrade software must come out of the bottom line. How many jobs will companies be forced to sacrifice if they were to spend this money on software?

Whose "economy" is it anyway?

Let's calculate the financial burden on a small company (with, say, 15 employees):

Assume all the employees have Windows (any version), MS-Office, virus protection and some kind of accounting package to run the business. Conservative estimates would place the ongoing costs, including upgrading and support, at approximately $2500 per seat, per annum (in my experience support costs are unavoidable, whether these people have legitimate licences or not). Overall the cost for that company will be at least $37,500, the equivalent of one person's salary in today's economic climate.

Now take this figure, multiply it by 10,000 (my guess at the number of companies with around 15 employees) and you see that the "economy" (aka Microsoft) has just made $37.5 million and, as a result, there are about 10,000 more people in Australia looking for work.

Is the BSAA really concerned with the well being of the Australian people by encouraging small business to stay afloat? Or do they exist simply to justify their own role in the global conspiracy to continue to make Microsoft rich?

I once read George Orwell's novel 1984 in which kids were encouraged to tell on their parents. The same thing happened during the Nazi regime in Europe, and now we see the BSAA offering money to employees who do the same - all for the good of the "economy".

I really wonder.

In order not to appear as if I am encouraging software pirates, I would like to suggest an alternative system.

My suggestion is it would be fairer and more appropriate to all parties if some sort of a scale was applied. A company with 15 employees should be able to buy a "site licence" and only pay for the equivalent of five seats (or whatever other formula can be agreed on). Not only would this benefit the economy in general, it would also allow the rich guys to continue to accumulate lots of money.

My final point is this - when clients ring us for help, we try helping them all we can. When I ring Microsoft for help - the operator at the other end does not let me go any further without providing my Visa card number.

So if someone asks who is stupid and who gets rich, we know the answer.

Alex Evans is managing director of software developer Micro Knox. Contact him at aevans@microknox.com.au


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