Microsoft dropping physical box sales of Windows 8 in China

In China, Windows 8 will only be distributed through downloads and devices pre-installed with the OS

Microsoft will not sell Windows 8 as a physical boxed product in China and instead will only distribute the OS through downloads and pre-installs on devices, in a move that could help the company drive consumers away from pirated copies of its products.

"After having talked to many customers, Microsoft has made the decision to simplify the distribution model of Windows in China, by taking all physical Windows media off the market," the company said in an email Monday.

Tutorial: How to fix problems upgrading or installing apps in the Windows 8 app store

Microsoft, which plans to release Windows 8 in China Friday, said it made the change in order to protect customers' PCs from malware and spyware. Downloads of Windows 8 in China will be available through sites owned by the company

Software piracy continues to be a major problem plaguing product sales in the country. In 2011, China's illegal software market was valued at US$9 billion, while legal software sales reached less than $3 billion, according to a study from the Business Software Alliance.

Microsoft has tried fighting the problem through lawsuits against Chinese vendors for allegedly installing pirated versions of its software on to PCs, and by also holding advertising campaigns to educate the public on the merits of using official copies of its products.

Despite these efforts, pirated Windows products are still easily found in stores at gadget malls in the country, and the pirated versions are known to contain malware and spyware. The severity of the problem was apparent in 2009, when bootleg copies of Windows 7 were on store shelves in China months before the official release of the product.

Microsoft's decision to forgo physical sales of Windows 8 might delay China's software pirates from mass printing DVDs with pirated versions of the OS, said Vic DeMarines, vice president of products for V.I. Labs, a U.S. firm that specializes in helping companies track and stop software piracy.

DeMarines, however, still expects a bootleg copy of Windows 8 to be available as soon as 30 days after the OS is official released, given that the software pirating community has been active for months trying to pirate the OS. Different piracy groups are all racing with one another to be the first to crack Windows 8, he added.

But the greater impact in Microsoft's new approach toward selling Windows in China could be in making it easier for users to differentiate between official and bootleg copies. Chinese consumers won't be able to claim they've bought an official version of unless it came from a Microsoft download or a computer pre-installed with it, said Michael Goff, marketing director for V.I. Labs.

In the Xinyang market in Shanghai, which is known to sell bootleg software, stores are selling boxed copies of "Windows 8 Ultimate", with the price ranging from 350 yuan (US$55) to 60 yuan. A store worker, however, said all the Window 8 copies simply contain the consumer preview of the OS, which can be downloaded online for free.

"All the other store owners came to me to get their copies of Windows 8," said the worker, who declined to give out his name. He estimates software pirates will have actual bootleg copies of Windows 8 ready likely in another two months.

In the run up to the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft on Monday held an event in Shanghai, promoting a wide range of devices, including tablets, laptops and desktops running the OS that are slated to come to China. The company did not speak about piracy issues.

"China is a big business opportunity for us" said Microsoft's Greater China region CEO Ralph Haupter in a speech. He pointed to how the country is becoming a major market for product sales. The country has already overtaken the U.S. to become the largest market for PC shipments, according to research firm IDC.

Despite the expected arrival of pirated copies of Windows 8 in China, some users in the country may decide to ignore the new OS given that it was designed for touchscreen devices, said Kitty Fok, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"If you decide to buy a touchscreen computer, it will probably come with a legal version of Windows 8," she said. "But if your computer doesn't have touch, and you want to experience Windows 8, you might find it's not as good as the other versions of Windows."

In the desktop OS market for July, Microsoft's Windows XP had a 73.7 percent market share in China, while Windows 7 has a 22.8 percent, according to data from analytics firm Net Applications.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows 8MicrosoftWindowshardware systemsdesktop pcstabletssoftwareoperating systems

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?