A new paper - written by Norwegian economics researcher, Arne Rogde Gramstad - suggests that piracy could be increasing Windows' marketshare. His findings suggest that if piracy were to vanish tomorrow, the amount of people using Linux would increase by 50-65%. This increase would lead to Linux having a 1.5-1.65% usage share (currently around 1%) in an average country. Thanks to piracy, Windows is actually seeing more adoption.
The three reasons Gramstad gives for piracy impacting on Linux adoption are:
- Illegal copies of Windows are cheap and almost perfect substitutes to the original.
- Competition from piracy is likely to cause lower prices of legal copies of Windows.
- Adoption of operating systems are associated with network externalities, and piracy of Windows may therefore cause increasing differences in the benefit of using Windows compared to Linux.
The research stated that if piracy increased by one percent in a typical country (based on data of 104 countries sourced by Net Applications), Linux would lose around 0.5% of its total market share. The explanation given for this phenomena is that poorer individuals are more likely to demand free-of-charge alternatives to expensive software - if a pirated copy of Windows is accessible then people tend to opt for it, over Linux. However, if piracy is less prevalent in a country users are more likely to pick a legally free alternative, namely Linux.
Given the findings of this study, perhaps Microsoft would be onto a winning idea if they kept Windows 10 free of charge and remained focused on their software-as-a-service efforts to make money.