Legal software means reliable

The cost conscious nature of the construction business and inflexible licensing programmes has often been blamed for the high rate of software piracy in the industry.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  December 13, 2003

|~|p3ec_process_200w.jpg|~||~|The cost conscious nature of the construction business and inflexible licensing programmes has often been blamed for the high rate of software piracy in the industry. However, mounting competition is driving more local companies to increase IT investment in order to maximise efficiency and cut costs.

“As the demands of the construction industries clients become more complex, pirated software is no longer able to meet the requirements of industry professionals,” says Jawad Al Redha, regional director of the software industry watchdog, Business Software Alliance (BSA).

The need for accurate planning and management of every project detail has also pushed companies to invest in legal software. With international and local companies attempting to meet increasingly tough deadlines, they can no long afford to be using flakily, unsupported applications that will commonly crash.

“The influx of international construction players and sophisticated technologies that [they have] access to, has raised the competition levels in architectural design…[and] the construction technology segment,” says Al Redha.

“[For] a local company to succeed in the industry, it must… better the offerings made by the international players. This brings into spotlight the capabilities of original software [versus] the limited and inferior, although cheaper, components of pirated software,” he adds.
The level of software piracy varies from country to country, depending largely on the maturity of intellectual property right (IPR) legislation and the willingness to enforce it. But overall, says Al Redha, the Middle East has seen a ‘dramatic’ reduction in piracy rates. “Good progress has been made, and the construction industry in the region [reflects] this progress,” he adds.

Regardless of progress in certain countries, software vendors are facing problems in emerging markets. Tekla, a European vendor of 3D modelling tools, recently fell foul of software pirates in Iran.

The company had been making inroads into the country’s emerging steel-based construction industry, until its xSteel product suite was cracked.

“We have been hit recently, very badly, with piracy. They [pirates] are selling pirated copies in Iran with products like Micro-Station on them. [You can] get about five different products for about US$30 dollars,” says Paul McIver, general manager, Tekla.

“Some of our prospective customers that were going to buy from us, decided not to because there are no copyright laws in Iran at the moment, or none that are enforced anyway. So suddenly, from about June this year, we started to lose our business,” he adds.

Although awareness campaigns and collaboration between vendors, local government and organisations like the BSA, have made headway in reducing piracy, flexible licensing models could reduce it further. Possible options include some form of subscription payment, rather than an inflexible, one off license payment, or perhaps the release of slimmed down application suites specifically for the local market.

But this creates a ‘chicken and egg’ situation — how likely are vendors to adapt software for the local market, if they are not seeing returns in the local market.

“International vendors will become interested in the region and develop it further to meet [market] requirements,” says Bassam Al Samman, president, Projacs, distributor for Primavera project management software.

“But if this market doesn’t generate the sales, they will not be in the priority list of the vendor,” he adds.||**||

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