Pirates yesterday upstaged the Hong Kong launch of Microsoft's Windows XP software by offering a $50 version of the $2,330 package. Retailers of the genuine product complained that shops in several computer malls were openly selling the illegal software - including the yet-to-be released Chinese-language version. Customers said it was easier to find pirated versions than the real thing. Illegal versions of XP have been available in Hong Kong for months, but copies reportedly worked for only a month or two before expiring. The knock-off software now being sold in small shops and malls appeared to be more reliable. In July, copies of Microsoft's other flagship product - Office XP - sold for $100, a fraction of the $4,700 legitimate price. Backed by a US$200 million (HK$1.5 billion) marketing campaign, Windows XP had been touted as the spark that would revive the slumping personal computer industry. But initial sales have seen little clamour. It is a far cry from the last time Microsoft released a major overhaul of its operating system and saw customers queuing to upgrade to Windows 95 from its DOS and Windows 3.1 predecessors. The Chinese-language version of XP will be officially released next Friday. About 60 per cent of Hong Kong's current users of Windows products have Chinese versions installed.