Microsoft Fights Piracy with Price Drop--in Kenya

Microsoft East Africa announced a 40 percent reduction in cost of its home and student office suite amid complaints of rampant software piracy in the Kenya.

"This special offer for Africa will enable more tools that will help them work more productively and accomplish more in developing presentations," said Ian Joule, Microsoft channel manager for East and Central Africa.

Microsoft reduced the price from 11,700 Kenya shillings (US$177.47) to 6,300 shillings. The price is only applicable to Africa and other emerging markets. The suite includes Microsoft Office Word 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 and Microsoft Office One Note 2007, among other features.

"Piracy has affected the market; Microsoft is working with the government and the Kenya Copyright Board to create awareness on copyright registration and piracy," said Laura Chite, Microsoft public relations manager.

Microsoft is also working with partners to ensure that genuine software is available wherever PCs are sold, said David Ndung'u, marketing manager in charge of East and Southern Africa.

Drawing an analogy to imported cars from Japan, Ndung'u said that Microsoft has a right to demand licensing fees and, in that sense, is not different from any other multinational corporation operating in the country.

"We want to ensure that technology is made easily accessible and affordable to people across Africa," he said. "That is why we have engaged in market research to establish what the customers want."

Last year, officials from the Kenya Copyright Board and Microsoft raided cyber cafés in Nairobi and other rural areas, demanding payment of license fees to avoid prosecution for using pirated software, which pushed many cafés out of business.

But Ndung'u said that the corporation has developed a pricing structure for cyber cafés that requires them to pay US$10 per desktop annually.

To create market-specific products, Microsoft has supported a user group for local developers who meet monthly to discuss product improvements, Ndung'u said. The Kenya Tea Development Agency, for example, is using Microsoft products developed in conjunction with a local team.

In harnessing local software development talent, Ndung'u said Microsoft aims to build the local software economy.

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