BEIJING: Microsoft has reduced the price of its Office software package in China by some 70%, as part of a promotion to dissuade consumers from buying the pirate copies readily available to citizens of the world's most populous nation.

The offer reduces the cost of Office Home and Student 2007 to Yuan 199 ($29; €19.9; £15.7) from the current level of Yuan 699, and constitutes a reduction of over 80% on the price of the programme just three months ago.

Research from the Business Software Alliance estimates that the level of piracy for PC software in China is around 80%, and Microsoft has previously limited its activity in the retail sector as a result.

The company, however, reported a “very good pick-up in sales” having cut the price of its office software by 50% in June, and has prepared around half of its normal annual Chinese inventory for the new offer, with the first day's sales thought to be encouraging.

Garth Fort, general manager for business operations and marketing in Greater China, said: “There was feedback from our retail partners that they think there is actually a lot more demand at lower prices, so this is an effort to test the hypothesis.

“There is actually a pretty significant market for high quality counterfeit goods that sells itself as genuine. We need to figure out how to tap into that with the real product.”

China is the second-largest market for Microsoft Windows in unit terms, with the number of personal computers bought with pre-loaded Windows software having increased dramatically in the last five years.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff