The Microsoft Windows 95 computer operating system officially hits the shelves on Thursday, but it has been selling in street markets and computer shops in Europe and Asia for months.
“We found thousands of copies of pre-release versions around,” Robin Burton, European spokesman for the anti-piracy group Business Software Alliance, said from London.
Windows 95 is the first major upgrade to Windows, the operating system for eight out of 10 personal computers, since 1990. It will cost about $100 when it goes on sale.
So-called “beta copies” of the program - test versions - have been selling for as little as $40 in some Asian locations.
The beta copies - sold at cost to 400,000 people this spring as a final test of the program - are not the real thing, said Christine Santucci, a Microsoft spokeswoman in Redmond, Wash.
They have bugs later worked out by programmers. They also don’t come with manuals.