Computer dealers in India are hitting back at Microsoft's attempts to clamp down on the use of pirated software in the country.
Dealers in the western state of Gujarat went on strike last week to protest notices served by Microsoft to 13 dealers, accusing them of shipping pirated copies of Windows with their computers. They now hope to extend the action to other states.
Bharat Randeri, president of the South Gujarat Information Technologists Association (SITA), said it is never a policy at computer dealers in the state to install pirated software. "We are not installing pirated software on the computers we sell," he said on Monday.
However, he admitted that individual staff sometimes install pirated software at the request of customers. Some customers want to use pirated software because the price of legal software is too high for them, Randeri said.
SITA hopes to extend its strike action to other states and is prepared to try and pressure Microsoft into withdrawing its complaint notices.
"We have been approached by dealers in other states who are also being harassed by Microsoft," Randeri said. "If Microsoft does not cooperate, we will tell our dealers to migrate to Linux."
Seven of the notices from Microsoft were served last year, followed by a further six this year, he said.
PC vendors in India, particularly those selling unbranded PCs, are known to install Windows and other software for free on their computers at the request of customers.
"We support the use of legal software, but we cannot do anything if the customer does not want it because it is too costly," Randeri said.
Besides the established PC dealers, a number of "out-of-garage" operations exist in India that offer customers a full menu of pirated software.
"Microsoft should bring down the price of its software and offer better support," Randeri said. In Surat, a major city in Gujarat, Microsoft does not have a support office, he said, and dealers there must support customers themselves.
Microsoft representatives in India were not available to comment. In a statement last week the company said it was "committed to working with the channel to help them understand the benefits of original software" and that it expected dealers to "support us in further spreading the message of the value of original software among the end consumers."
Microsoft offers Starter Editions of its OS in some markets, which are priced lower than full-featured versions. They have been bundled with PCs from some key Indian vendors, although they come with limitations, such as the number of applications that users can run simultaneously.