A couple of weeks back I was asked by a client to quote for a 25 page ecommerce website. After looking at his requirements I quoted him $450, which is quite low by any standards. The client called me with a surprised tone in his voice and told me that in that amount he would be able to buy a new computer and he was willing to pay me not more than $200 for the same. This is not an isolated case, but one from a dozen or so client interactions. I don’t want to imply that the clients are cheap; all of the clients I have dealt with are very good business people. Its just that they don’t know the value of software; and one of the main reasons for that is piracy.
A year ago a relative of mine got an assembled PC, which came with a 260GB HD, CDROM, AMD processor and about 12GB of pirated software. Software right from Photoshop, Dreamweaver, AutoCAD to Oracle. My rough estimation of the total cost of the software was about US $21000, while the PC cost was only around $900. This is a common thing here in India and most of the Asian countries. The result of this is that people have no value of software here.
Surprisingly many people think that the software comes free when you buy a new PC. Its like if you buy a wardrobe you get all the clothes for free.
A recent encounter with a businessman I know was a real eye-opener. This guy was telling me about the rampant growth of piracy in the music and movie industry and how he had never bought a single pirated movie or music CD. Being quite impressed with him, I asked him from where had he bought the Vista operating system that he was using on his desktop PC. To my chagrin he expressed surprise at my question. He said that it came bundled with the computer. Since his computer was also assembled by a local vendor, the copy of Vista was surely a pirated one. After telling him about the same, he replied that he thought the operating system and other software like Microsoft Office came free with the computer. After I told him that he was using software worth $1200 illegally he showed surprise, but nowhere was there a hint that he would go out and buy legal copies of the same.
Intangibility of software.
Software, unlike other things in our daily lives, is intangible in nature. You cannot touch or feel it the way you feel a book or a car. And therein lies the problem. Most people when they buy some product want to feel the thing they have bought. They want to possess it. Say you have bought yourself a nice music system. You can enjoy all the tangible pleasures a music system can provide. Unlike software it also has a return monetary value; if you wish you can sell it back to a friend for the same amount of money or at a reduced price. Not so with software, once you have bought it you cannot sell it to another person. Of course when you buy some software product, say Photoshop, you get monetary benefits by providing services to clients by using it. But people are illogical, there motto is – if you cannot see or touch something it should be free!
What we can do.
The only way to get out of this mess is to educate people around you. Whether they are school children, business people, home users or even those who don’t use a computer, we need to get them to understand the value of software; the amount being spent by companies on development; the hard work and toil of programmers and that their are alternatives like open source softwares if you want a free solution.