I found this article through my daily digg trawl, and thought it worthy of a post.

Brian Auer ran a poll on his website to ask users if they purchased or pirated the software they use. Photoshop users came back as 60% pirating. Now some of you may find this shocking, and many other readers will just be saying “me too, it costs too much”.

What I found particularly interesting however was the commentary after the article, and how people justify their piracy. In may cases I think both the pirates and Adobe are more than happy with some of these “justifications”, particularly when the use is educational and not for profit.

What it does do however, is make me ask the broader question, which is should software companies be offering not for profit versions of their software at a token price (or for free) to encourage uptake, and creating a pseudo industry standard in process?

Moving the example into a different realm, I had never contemplated purchasing a copy of Microsoft Office. Recently I was building a new PC for my mum, and I had to choose to either purchase Office, pirate it, or install OpenOffice. With WGA and Microsoft update, the piracy option isn’t so attractive any more, so the end result was going to be downloading and installing OpenOffice. And in the long run this is hurting Microsoft. Another user moving away to Open Office over time will provide Open Office a foothold in corporations, and the market dominance is gone. I already know a number of medium size businesses (50+) who are using Open Office now.

Then I discovered that with Office 2007 they have expanded their Academic version to include “Home” users, and with a 3 user license to boot. So for Aud$200 I was able to purchase a copy of Office for my mum, and in the end Microsoft got to maintain their industry standard. I still think this should be $100 or less as it doesn’t include Outlook, but the point is that Microsoft is starting to price their product more realistically for the home market.

I would be interested to see if sales to home users are kicking up as a result of this new license option.

I think this realisation by Microsoft, and offering a “Home” license is critical moment in their future. If they didn’t do this, I could quite easily see a space where in a decade Office2015 wouldn’t exist in the corporation.

Now getting back on point, I think this serves as a great example of what other vendors such as Adobe and Autodesk should be doing. Keep it cheap for the home user, and people won’t need to pirate your software. Make piracy too hard, and they use a different product which defeats your long term objective of maintaining a defacto industry standard.