Microsoft Offers Pirates a Discount to Get Them to Use Microsoft 365

Microsoft Offers Pirates a Discount to Get Them to Use Microsoft 365
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty, Getty Images

Microsoft is using an unconventional method to make an ally out of a longtime enemy: offering people who use pirated copies of its Office suite apps a 50% discount on a legitimate version.

Whenever a pirated version of Office is opened, a ribbon at the top appears with the message: “Get up to 50% off. For a limited time, save up to 50% on a genuine Microsoft 365 subscription.” Within the message is a link to an official product page titled “Pirated software exposes your PC to security threats.” These risks, according to Microsoft, include increased exposure to viruses and malware attacks, identity theft, corrupted files, and data loss, and not receiving critical updates to the software.

First reported by Ghacks, the sneaky deal popped up on a version of Office 2019 and the discount only seems to work if you clicked the direct link from the pirated copy of Office. It seems pirates can get Microsoft 365 Family for just $US50 (A$70) or Microsoft 365 Person for $US35 (A$49) while those who followed the rules need to pay twice as much.

Some may view this as a win-win scenario where pirates turn their backs on a life of crime while Microsoft ekes out whatever profits it can from those who had no intentions of paying. Others will notice that the discount is for Microsoft 365, an annual subscription service that will likely ask pirates to pay full price in a year’s time. Oh, and “full price” will be greater next year when Microsoft raises the price of its 365 subscriptions in March.

Of course, these indoctrinated users of legitimate Office products can always cancel once their subscription expires and go back to a life of swindling (though we don’t encourage this behaviour). Perhaps if Microsoft had discounted the one-time A$250 purchase of Office 2021 it would have a better chance of gaining lifelong customers.

Microsoft Office is one of the most pirated software suites and has been for the past decade. It’s surprising to see Microsoft finally taking a stance against a practice that has surely lost the company millions of dollars over the years. Then again, the software giant has been pushing its 365 subscriptions hard lately and there seems to be no boundary on who it wants to rope in.

If you’re using a pirated version of Office, this 50% off might be worth considering even if it means handing over your once-secret identity to Microsoft. Or, you know, you could use a free alternative, like Google Docs or LibreOffice.