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Dealer Discussion: How has piracy affected your business?

This month, Tech For Techs’ members discuss their thoughts on pirated software and how it has affected their businesses.

RICH FORTH, PHASE 4 COMPUTERS

“Piracy is definitely an issue for us. On a daily basis we see customers questioning our prices for software, for instance Windows 10 Home, we sell at Microsoft’s RRP of £120, but we have customers saying they can buy it cheaper from eBay or Amazon for under £50 for Professional. When informing people that those are pirated copies the stand point is almost the same: “But I’m an individual, will they care?” To which our answer is YES, piracy is piracy! We’ve still lost out on business as people will not take onboard our advice and buy pirated goods. If they bring it in to us for repair, we refuse to install the questionable software.”

JENNI GRIFFITHS, CHIPS COMPUTERS

“I find it makes it hard to sell legit software. People see things like Office on sale on auction sites for £10 and here I sit selling it at £70. I can’t compete with that. I can only say: “Well mine is genuine and you don’t have to worry about issues with it being valid”. Most are willing to take the gamble though. It’s very frustrating.”

MITCH WESTBROOK, WESTBROOK’S COMPUTER SERVICES

“The other day, I sat with a customer reviewing their office’s software needs at the startup of their new business. We soon got to discussing MS Office and 365. Shortly after informing them of the costs of purchase, they Googled the packages we’d discussed. To my utter chagrin, the entire top of the Google page was festooned with cheapo knock-offs. I found myself having to explain. Thanks to this particular businessman’s views on, ‘the bottom line,’ this wasn’t straight forward. As a technician in sales, not a salesman in tech – I felt slightly out of my depth. Google has made quite the big deal about banning technical support ads from anyone but established businesses. Why on earth aren’t the same principles applied to these faceless online outlets supplying knock- off software?”

ALEX COLLARD, AJ COMPUTING

“My main issues with piracy is Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, and retailers selling cheap copies both online and in local stores. It affects my business directly because often the case, even after pointing out the perils of buying software on the cheap, they take the risk. I have a hard stance on it – I will not work with software I suspect isn’t licensed correctly. This can work both ways – I have lost a sale recently for a laptop and MS Office as I wasn’t prepared to transfer data from MS Outlook knowing it was a cheap copy. On the other hand, this same tactic has encouraged a client to buy the bundle of Office and a laptop. I believe that suspiciously cheap copies of Office put a dent in Office 365 products, too.”

IAIN SIMPSON, MOBILE IT HELP

“You have to look at it from the customer’s point of view. If they can for example buy Windows 10 Pro for £9.99 why would they shell out £100 or more? Even if it only works for six months it’s still a bargain, nothing stopping them boat buying another licence. It still works out cheaper unless they keep their computer for literally years on end.”

GRANT PHILLIPS-SEWELL, PLYMOUTH-IT

“I do not sell software or licenses, I only provide support and training. As such I try to use, and steer my clients towards using free software and open source software wherever appropriate so they aren’t conned into buying something cheap only to find it’s not genuine. I do advise on where to get genuine licenses for non-free software, but ultimately it is their decision as to whether they follow my advice or not. Either way it doesn’t affect my bottom line.”

DANIEL POTTER, GATEACRE COMPUTERS

“We have had a customer recently who had an unlicensed version of Windows 10 installed on their PC – we rang to tell them that we need to purchase a licence
Retail Talk for Windows and the cost would be around £100. The customer then rang me back and said: “How dare you to try to overcharge me, I have found one on the net for £1.” I explained to the customer this is 99.9% certainty not a legitimate key and that if it works it will almost certainly be deactivated in a couple of months. I also explained to the customer that these “cheap” keys are known to fund criminal activity such as human trafficking and the drugs trade. The customer ended up buying a key off us in the end but this is a problem we see on a regular basis.”

PETE BUTLER, BRIDPORT PC REPAIR

“Awkward isn’t it? The problem is that they’re not ‘fake’ keys, if anything they’re basically time limited keys. We don’t use them, but honestly, if I get into an argument with a customer about the cost then I just tell them to provide me the key but not expect any after sales support if and when that key becomes defunct. I’m a consumer too and I totally see it from their point of view, buy one copy of Windows 10 Pro for £120 or ten ‘dodgy’ keys for the same. This is especially complicated given Microsoft upgraded most W7 and 8 copies for free. It’s hard to explain to people that although it was free then, it’s not now, your license doesn’t cover transferring to a different machine, and you don’t actually own it. I don’t even bother trying to sell Office, Libreoffice all the way, can’t try to justify to the customer why they need to spend £100 on Office when Libre does the same for free, that’s before the discussion about dodgy keys comes up. Business’s are obviously different, they tend to understand that it all has to be above board, financial penalties etc, but home users don’t generally care. And can you really blame them?”

RICHARD OVERFIELD, RL SUPPLIES

“Many, many years ago even the most basic PC would cost in excess of £2,000, and then you added a copy of Windows for £100. Now a basic Desktop PC can cost as little as £150 to build, but you still have to add £100 for a copy of Windows. The cost of software as a percentage of the cost of a system has increased dramatically, and you can understand why people look for the cheapest way of obtaining their Operating System. Maybe the solution to the piracy problem is to either reduce the cost of Windows to reflect the dropping cost of purchasing a PC, or maybe have the Operating System and the Office Suite as a combined subscription product. This would stop all piracy. This model appears to have worked very successfully for Adobe who now only sell some of their packages using a subscription model. We find Microsoft Office a very hard sell for a majority of customers and usually suggest OpenOffice as an alternative to Word and Excel, and advise customers to either view their emails online or use alternatives to Microsoft Outlook like Mozilla Thunderbird.”

PETER WHITEHOUSE, SCANSTATION COMPUTERS LIMITED

“Pirate software continues to be a blight on the IT industry and is as prevalent as it has ever been. With more end users moving to purchasing online and relying less on bricks and mortar stores to be their trusted advisers, educating these customers becomes more of a challenge. This is further hampered by sites like Amazon marketplace and eBay facilitating the sale of volume licence and out of market student software lulling the unwitting customer into a false sense of security. The counterfeit software suppliers have moved from selling burnt CDs from a stall at the Sunday market to selling volume licence keys and patches online. It’s the evolution of the pirate software market which refuses to die.”

KARL LEEMING, BROKENBOX

“I do a couple of things with Windows, I include the price of windows in the systems price and itemise it, if a customer says they can get the licence a lot cheaper I explain I cant use that licence and the downside of using said licences but if they wish to purchase said licence I will install windows as an unlicensed version and they can enter there own key but licencing issues will be down to them some listen and some don’t, Office I will not install unlicensed but I do advise how to get legal free copies if their child’s school/college participates in the free office program or I suggest Open Office as an alternative.”

JASON BASSETT, CORRILAN IT CONSULTANCY LTD

“There is no need for software piracy – especially with free tools such as LibreOffice.org. The problem with such free and Open Source tools though is that the customer often wrongly assumes they will be poor quality, due to being free and often does not even give them a chance. For a while when asked “I just want to type letters, where do I get Microsoft Office?”, I would suggest using LibreOffice.org and install that if the system owner agreed, customising it to save in Microsoft formats by default. I always call my clients back four weeks later to ensure there are no outstanding issues with the work I carried out. I found that in most cases those people I had installed LibreOffice.org for had decided that it did not create letters how they needed it to, so had purchased and installed Microsoft Office instead. So, as per the GPL, I started charging for a customised version of LibreOffice.org at a substantially cheaper cost to Microsoft Office. I soon found that when I contacted those clients, the response when questioned about LibreOffice.org was more positive with phrases such as “Oh yes it’s wonderful, you saved us a good £70”. I learnt that people apply respect to alternatively software if they have paid for it!”

SIMON JEFFREY, TECHIE MONKEY

“There needs to be better policing of pirate software. I remember the days of FAST. Similar stories to the rest had a guy with a laptop recently that he had a mate install Windows on, the license stopped working. I advised it would cost £100 plus, and his response was: “I can get one on eBay for £5”. I told him it’s not legit, but he was told not bothered. People want out for nowt these days and aren’t afraid to ignore laws.”

RICHARD CREEDY, GR8 COMPUTER SERVICES

“It is an issue for all concerned, potential malware infection from tampered with fake software for the consumer, loss of income for resellers, and vendors. If someone presents me with a fake software product I simply tell them I can’t install it.”

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