Microsoft doesn't want you to pirate their software, but if you must choose between illegally installing Windows or a competitor's operating system, Microsoft would prefer that you choose them. While the company obviously won't endorse the illegal use of software, it does believe that piracy can result in profit.
At the Morgan Stanley Technology conference last week in San Francisco, Microsoft business group president Jeff Raikes commented on the benefits of software counterfeiting. "If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else," he said. "We understand that in the long run the fundamental asset is the installed base of people who are using our products. What you hope to do over time is convert them to licensing the software."
While Raikes' words do not appear to echo the sentiments of his company at first, what he said actually fits right into Microsoft's agenda. Over the last two years, the company has been heading a global effort to crack down on piracy, specifically the piracy of Microsoft products. In a memo on product activation, the company even states, "Software piracy is an enormous drain on the global economy, according to the 2000 BSA Software Piracy Report." Though many have argued that the BSA report was wildly inaccurate, Microsoft still uses whatever weapons it can find to convert pirates into customers. Just as the "Get the Facts" campaign is intended to sway users from Linux, Microsoft's antipiracy offensive aims to sway users away from Windows—counterfeit Windows that is.
According to Raikes' numbers, 20 to 25 percent of all software that is used in the United States is pirated. To Microsoft, those people are all potential customers, and in many ways the company's antipiracy campaign is equivalent to a large marketing push. The FUD, eye-catching images, and cheesy slogans (e.g. Get Genuine) all fit into the scheme. Once a person is converted into a user of Genuine Microsoft software, I highly doubt he will ever stray back to the dark side, but that's just a hunch.