Look, we know you're going to steal the software, just make sure it's Microsoft software!

Microsoft Corporation unveiled the mainline China version of its Windows 98 operating system on Monday, opening the doors to what could potentially be the largest market for software in the world. That is, if people actually bought legitimate software in China.

"We believe the China marketplace in the near term is very, very significant," said Michael Rawding, regional director for Microsoft China. "This launch is representative, along with a number of other things that we're considering, of indeed a more strategic investment by Microsoft in the China marketplace."

Indeed, Microsoft has been working with the Chinese government to end software piracy in the Far East, but illegal software still accounts for over 95% of all software bought there.

"Piracy remains a very significant challenge in the China market," Rawding said. "Will it impact Windows 98 sales? Yes, it will have some impact, but we think the market is large enough and the number of people who are interested in buying legal Windows 98 for retail and corporations is significant."

In any event, the release launched today does represent a significant step for Microsoft. The Chinese release of Windows 98 trailed the U.S. English version by only two months, compared to four months for Windows 95 three years ago. Windows 98 uses the simplified Chinese character set used in mainland China, which is different from the more complex Chinese script still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong