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Fake XP booty found in Singapore raids

Windows XP retailing at $2.75--too good to be true? Police nab thousands of pirated CDs, and Microsoft chides bootleggers for both theft and shoddy workmanship.

By Susan Tsang

SINGAPORE--More than 4,000 copies of Microsoft products were seized in police raids of pirated software in Singapore.

Seven raids were conducted in October, in island heartlands including Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Marine Parade and Bedok North. This is because activity at the traditional center of pirated goods, Sim Lim Square, has largely been eradicated by police action. The raids turned up more than 4,000 pieces of illegal Microsoft goods.

About 80 percent of the items were the software giant's Windows XP system, which premiered Oct. 25 and arrived in Singapore a day later. The pirated CDs were retailing at $2.75 ($5 Singapore) to $5.50 ($10 Singapore) apiece, compared with $213 for the genuine Windows XP Home edition, and $312 for the Professional edition.

Microsoft corporate attorney Katharine Bostick said in a statement that the pirates wanted to exploit the worldwide marketing effort for Windows XP.

"Not only are these pirates ripping off legitimate software retailers," she said, "they are exploiting the creativity, hard work and investment made by software developers and industry partners."

According to research commissioned by the Business Software Alliance, Singapore suffers from a 50 percent piracy rate--higher than the global average of 37 percent.

The copies seized in October are by no means the first copies of XP to appear in the region.

As early as September, CNET Asia reported that illicit copies of the operating system were available in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for as little as $1.50.

"Piracy is theft," said Bostick. "Those selling counterfeit software are stealing the income of legitimate Singapore retailers and saddling consumers with inferior copies."

Microsoft issued the same warning it gave to consumers in Kuala Lumpur. Counterfeit software, it said, could be defective, missing key elements, or contain viruses. Users of illegal software are also ineligible for technical support, warranty protection or upgrades.

The number of people apprehended in the raid was not given. Those convicted of piracy can face up to seven years' imprisonment.

Staff writer Susan Tsang reported from Singapore.