Illegal beta copies of Longhorn, Microsoft his next-generation operating system for desktop PCs, are already out in the 'wild' for a couple of months, and today Reuters reports that software pirates in Malaysia are actually selling these beta versions in shops for the price of six ringgit (around $1.6).
The software is an early version of Longhorn demonstrated and distributed at a conference for Microsoft programmers in Los Angeles in October, Microsoft Corporate Attorney Jonathan Selvasegaram told Reuters.
"It's not a ready product," he said from Malaysia. "Even if it works for a while, I think it's very risky," to install on a home computer, he said.
The software is on sale in the largest shopping complex in Johor Bahru, the Malaysian city bordering Singapore, alongside thousands of pirated programs, music CDs and DVDs.
Discs in plastic covers hang from racks in more than a dozen specialised stores in the Holiday Plaza centre, even though it has its own police station. Such piracy is rampant in Asia, although the United States praised Malaysia for seizing thousands of illegal discs since May. U.S. trade losses due to piracy in Malaysia fell to $242 million last year from $316 million in 2001.
Selvasegaram said pirates would shut their shops whenever Malaysian authorities launched a clampdown, only to reopen within days or even hours. He said software companies were working with the authorities on the problem, but the police were more concerned about controlling pornography.
Microsoft expects that Longhorn will be ready in 2005, and that it would be their largest software launch of this decade.