Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending part of December in his homeland of Vietnam and is filing occasional dispatches chronicling his impressions of how technology has permeated the culture there. Click here for more of Dong's stories from abroad.
HANOI, Vietnam--You say you can't afford the $699 price tag on Adobe Photoshop CS4? How about a $698 discount?
That's the kind of deal you'll get here in Hanoi, where pirated software--and virtually any other kind of digital content--is sold indiscriminately at many local shops for about $15,000 dong (90 cents) per DVD, or half of that for a CD.
These shops are open, just like any legitimate business. I checked one out and was impressed by the number of software titles it carried. While there, I also learned a thing or two about the piracy industry here in Vietnam.
The store I visited is a small shop facing a busy street, with walls covered in CD and DVD sleeves--all black and white copies of those found in the original software package.
Virtually any PC software application I've ever heard of can be found here: Windows operating systems, popular Office suites, and high-end professional software such as Photoshop, AudoCad, and Corel Draw, are available in any versions. I even found different builds of Windows 7, which is currently still in pre-beta and is supposedly available to only a limited few.
These software applications, of course, come with "crack"--a hacking application that allows for bypassing the vendors' antipiracy mechanism. All are guaranteed to work; if not, you'll get another copy that does or get your money back.
Out of curiosity, I asked one of the shop's two operators, Nam--a friendly 24-year-old man--where this copious amount of software comes from. He said there's somebody who gets his shop the "master" copy of any titles he wants, and the master copy costs just about $5.
I made up a fancy name of a nonexistent software title and asked for it. After searching his large database to no avail, Nam indeed picked up the phone and made a quick call. After that he told me to come back the next day. "They don't have it now, but they probably will soon, don't worry!" he said, sounding very sure.… Read more