Opening Brazilian Windows

Brazil has always felt the need to push back against the imposition of international intellectual property rights from the global powers in the US and Europe: it famously simply disregarded TRIPs and decided to manufacture its own antiretroviral drugs when faced with a domestic Aids crisis and extremely high prices from western manufacturers.

Now Andrew Leonard reports on its attempt to wean the country off the Microsoft teat:

In an effort to spread personal computer usage throughout Brazil, the government has for years subsidized the purchase of PCs with low-interest loans — as long as the computers are preinstalled with Linux.

But in a CNET article taking a look at the obstacles hindering the growth of the technology market in Brazil, reporter Ina Fried suggests that many of those computers don’t stick with their Linux-based operating systems for very long.

…Some estimates show as many as 18 or 19 out of every 20 machines sold with Linux ultimately are converted to some form of Windows.

What the CNET article doesn’t mention, of course, is the proportion of those 18 or 19 Windows installations which resulted in any revenue flowing to Redmond. Microsoft is that weirdest of animals: it’s a consumer-facing company, but almost nobody pays cash for Windows, instead buying it bundled in with their hardware. Once you unbundle the hardware from the operating system, as Brazil has done, people are likely to find copies of Windows in non-official channels rather than paying full retail price.

In other words, Brazil might have failed to stop its citizens from using Windows. But it’s probably succeeded in keeping a pretty large amount of money in Brazil which would otherwise have left the country.

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