Pirated Windows 'out soon'
By MICHELLE CHIN and WANDA SZETO
PIRATED versions of Microsoft's Windows 95, at prices as low as $60, are expected to flood the market within the week.
The original version, priced at $799, was released yesterday at midnight amid warnings of a new technique to trace pirate disks.
But, within hours of the release, a shopkeeper at the heart of Hong Kong's pirate software district, Shamshuipo's Golden Arcade, was telling customers they could buy cheap copies in about a week.
'We don't have the pirated copies yet, because the real version is only out today,' he said.
'It will at least take the mainland manufacturing factories a week to finish the production.' Many computer addicts began scouring the shops for the pirated operating system yesterday.
Copies of the pre-trial, unpolished version have been available in Hong Kong for months, at prices ranging from $50 to $70.
Microsoft had released the beta, or test version, to 1,000 local users, asking them for feedback to perfect the final product. Pirated copies of this have already become popular.
One shop in Nelson Street, Mongkok, had a sign on the counter advertising pirated copies of the new version for $100.
But, when asked for a copy yesterday afternoon, staff said they had sold out and had only managed to make 50 copies.
Another shop in Golden Arcade claimed it had offered pirated copies of the final version for four to five days. Covers on the disks indicated it was the final version, but another shopkeeper said it was a forgery.
'The amateur users, without much knowledge in computers, will think it is the real one,' he said.
'But the fact is the real version is only released today - how could we have [pirate copies] available on the same day?' Several shops were closed yesterday as rumours warned of a Customs and Excise raid to mark the Windows 95 launch.
'There have been rumours all day that they will come today after the official release of Windows 95,' the shopkeeper said.
'I don't open if it isn't raining outside. Normally they don't come on a rainy day,' he said.
Sure enough, a team of 40 Customs officers raided the Golden Arcade and two Wan Chai stores yesterday.
But head of the Intellectual Property Investigation Bureau, Ronny Tsang Hing-kam, denied the raid was related to the launch.
'It is a routine operation,' he said. 'We have no intention of protecting any particular software product. We act upon our intelligence.' Officers arrested 13 men, aged between 15 and 43, and seized 5,359 CD-ROMs, including 15 copies of the trial version of Windows 95.