The pirated software is readily available at night markets around the city as well as in open-air food stalls and walkways in suburbs.
In an interview Monday, a Kuala Lumpur-based IT consultant, who requested anonymity, said he paid $2.60 (10 ringgits) for a single, Office XP Professional CD, which comes with Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002, Outlook 2002, and FrontPage 2002 for Web authoring.
He said pirated copies of Office XP have been available in Kuala Lumpur since "before April."
"Once the (Internet) newsgroups started posting the code, I knew that someone would port it to CDs and start selling them," he said.
The company is aware of such pirated copies in the open market, said Moses Wan, product manager for desktop productivity at Microsoft Malaysia. He said Office XP code was illegally posted on newsgroups a "few weeks ago" but later removed.
"Although there has been speculation that the build was final code, Microsoft cannot comment on the integrity of the code, as we were not able to view it prior to its removal from the Web site," Wan said.
While the software giant is aware that illegal copies of Office XP are readily available in Kuala Lumpur, the company has yet to file a complaint with local authorities. "We are investigating to gather information to file a compliant," said Kenny Cheung, a legal associate with Microsoft's Law and Corporate Affairs Department based in Singapore.
Cheung stressed that the pirated software contained beta versions, as Microsoft has yet to release the final code. Microsoft is selling an official 30-day trial version of the software for $9.95. The company is expected to officially launch Office XP in the United States on May 31.
Microsoft representatives said Office XP would cost about $526 in Malaysia, or close to the retail price of Office 2000.
Malaysia is on the Priority Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representatives office, which means that if insufficient action is taken to curb software piracy in the country, there is a risk of trade sanctions, warned Microsoft's Wan.
Staff writer Fran Foo reported from Singapore.