By James Renwick, Special to The China Post
A new budget suite of office software from Thiz Technology Group Ltd. will hit the shelves of computer stores in Taiwan next month, which the firm hopes will loosen the grip Microsoft has on the local software market. While Microsoft has been blowing more hot air than ever about the thousands of copyright violators it suspects are using pirated versions of its software in Taiwan, boffins at Thiz Technology have come up with Thiz Office 3.0, an alternative software package tagged at NT$1250 — less than a tenth of the price of Microsoft Office XP.
Thiz Office 3.0 isn’t a revolution in office software: its word-processing, spreadsheet and slide presenter programs have the same look, interface and facilities as Microsoft’s products. However, said Kevin Lao, Thiz Technology’s GM, the bottom line is that you can have all the ability of Microsoft at a fraction of the price.
“Writer” is Thiz Technology’s “Word” and to make it suitable for the whole Greater China region it features both simplified and traditional character options. “Writer” is also able to produce documents in the traditional Chinese format: top to bottom and right to left. “We are aiming the product at families, schools and students who are perhaps using pirated Microsoft software, and private firms who are looking for a cheaper alternative,” added Lao. In Taiwan currently, only professional traders of pirated goods, not those who break copyright laws, are subject to public prosecution. However, the government is coming under greater pressure from the U.S. to cut down on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations and even individual violators copying programs for their friends.
This prompted a group of university students recently to launch protests against Microsoft, saying that the U.S. firm had monopolized the local market, a reason contributing to the overpricing of their goods in Taiwan. Making the issue an even hotter topic, the U.S. trade representative office (USTR) recently decided again to place Taiwan on the “Priority Watch List” for violations of IPR, prompting ministers to sign deals with Microsoft Taiwan Corp. and other software firms to buy their products in order to set an example for the public. But a cheap, reliable alternative to piracy of Microsoft products could mean a new rival in the huge Greater China market. Evidence of the potential of Thiz Office 3.0 is in the support the firm has been getting from IBM, which, according to Thiz Technology, will be offering its own branded version of the software on its new desktops and notebook computers in two months time.
Thiz Office is compatible with both Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems, making it appealing to both mainstream and alternative computer users.