Four Chinese PC assemblers, together comprising 60 per cent of the country's market, say they will preinstall Microsoft's Windows XP on their consumer-targeted PCs.
The decision is not as simple as it sounds. With piracy such a widespread problem in the region, assemblers often make PCs available without bundling the expensive operating system portion. Punters are then free to pick up a cheap pirated edition and install it, lowering the overall system cost.
The companies - Legend, TCL International, Tsinghua Tongfang and Great Wall Cybertech - will install the OS before shipping boxes out to their resellers, a move which is expected to raise the average retail price of their PCs by around ten per cent.
A major PC player in the region, Founder Holdings, has not succumbed to Microsoft's seduction as yet, preferring to wait and see how its rivals fare with their decision.
Microsoft is cock-a-hoop with the decision of the PC assemblers to pre-install WinXp. Asia is a vast market - potentially. But it will remain potential unless the company, and other software providers can rein in endemic piracy in the region.
Microsoft took another step yesterday towards trying to capture revenue with the release of its Chinese-edition Pocket PC 2002. The new software, a platform for handheld devices, recognises Chinese handwriting and has some revamped user interfaces to facilitate this. ®