From the October 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Apparently, there's been no slowdown in the plundering of software by high-tech pirates. According to a recent study commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Software Publishers Association, worldwide dollar losses exceeded $11.2 billion last year. More than 225 million business applications were pirated, a 20 percent increase since 1995.

Not surprisingly, software manufacturers in the United States are the big losers in the piracy battle. The percentage of software in the United States that is being used illegally increased to 27 percent. The $2.4 billion in U.S. losses greatly exceeds that of any other country and represents 21 percent of total worldwide losses.

The growth of the Internet, where programs can easily be downloaded by users who don't hold software licenses, has significantly spurred software theft. Yet perhaps the most common form of piracy is unlicensed copying in the workplace. Often, licenses for one or a few copies are purchased for a business, but then illegal copies are made--sometimes unbeknownst to management.

A free program called SoftScan is available from the BSA to help businesses monitor software piracy. When placed on a user's machine, SoftScan inventories programs on the hard drive for verification against software purchase records and licenses. Download the software from the BSA's Web site at http://www.bsa.org , or call (888) NO-PIRACY.

Package Deal

The explosive growth of small business hasn't failed to catch the attention of technology vendors: More and more are packaging specialized products and services together. Hewlett Packard's (HP) new HP Technology Small Business Initiative is one of the most comprehensive programs out there, offering small-business products and information to make purchasing and using HP technology easier.

One component of the program is the HP Small Business Solution Expert campaign. HP is partnering with resellers across the country to give small businesses better access to resellers' technical expertise for purchasing decisions and technical support. To accomplish this, HP is conducting seminars with resellers nationwide to develop "Solutions Experts" who are specifically trained to meet the needs of small businesses.

Another leg of the program is the HP Small Business Resource Center, HP's Web site for small business (http://www.hp.com/go/smallbiz ). Here you can find information and product specifications for HP's small-business products and services. One useful feature is an online directory to help you locate authorized HP resellers in your area. It also provides information about their level of expertise.

Finally, HP has added new products to its already well-rounded small-business line that coincide with this program. Among them: a line of affordable laser printers called the HP LaserJet 6L printers and the HP JetDirect 150X Print Server that's designed to connect printers directly to a network for faster printing.

Programs like the HP Technology Small Business Initiative are a step in the right direction. As long as the market remains strong, expect the trend toward specialized products and services to continue.

Grab A Bite

While downloading and cybersurfing aren't exactly exercises that work up a sweat, apparently they do work up an appetite. A recent survey conducted by the Snack Food Association (SFA) found that eight out of 10 computer users like to snack while surfing the Net or performing other computing tasks.

When the munchies strike, what do computer operators reach for? The snacks of choice include popcorn (24 percent of respondents), pretzels (23 percent), potato chips (17 percent) and tortilla chips (14 percent).

Adding to the trend is the increase in the use of computers for fun rather than work, says the SFA. Many survey respondents say they most often cruise the Internet at home, where the kitchen cupboard is just a few steps away. Guess when it comes to entertainment and eating, the computer mouse and the remote control have something in common.

Contact Sources

Business Software Alliance, (888) NO-PIRACY, http://www.bsa.org

Hewlett Packard, (800) 322-4772, http://www.hp.com

Snack Food Association, http://www.snax.com