[Bill Gates]

"Questions are a burden to others. Answers are a prison for oneself."

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: The End-User License Agreement (EULA) provides for refunds through the PC's OEM (the "Manufacturer"). Why, then, are you seeking refunds from Microsoft?

A: The EULA effectively has the OEM acting as agent for Microsoft. We feel it's in Microsoft's, the OEMs', and the users' interest to have this refund handled efficiently, directly through Microsoft, and are estimating they will agree.

Q: You aren't serious about doing without Windows entirely, are you?

A: 100% serious. The Microsoft products being returned are completely unused, unneeded, and unwanted -- because the machine was bought solely for use with open-source operating systems, not Microsoft ones. Many if not most of us are people who use non-MS operating systems by choice, routinely, every day. That full-featured, open-source operating systems do exist and that some PC buyers prefer them is apparently a novel idea for some, but a fact for us.

Q: What about people who secretly continue to use the product after getting a refund?

A: There are none in our group: We are legitimate users of open-source operating systems who were obliged to accept bundled* Microsoft OS (operating system) software to buy their computers, but who declined to accept the license terms, have not used it, and are therefore now seeking refunds as the EULA specifies. We will confirm in advance that all refund participants meet these guidelines.

Q: Will Microsoft's Foster City office accept the products for refund?

A: We don't know, yet. The January 20th "Sm@rt Reseller" piece says Microsoft is "preparing a response to the campaign".

Q: Are users of proprietary non-Microsoft OSes on Intel, such as BeOS, SolarisX86, SCO UnixWare, OS/2, QNX, and NeXTstep for Intel (to name a few) also welcome?

A: This is an initiative of and by the open-source software community. We welcome separate efforts by users of proprietary OSes, who would certainly have an equally valid claim. If you hear of such an effort or want to start one, please contact arlo@linuxmafia.com, and we'll be glad to assist (e.g., share information and link to your Web site).

Q: I'm not seeking to return software, but may I come along?

A: Yes. Members of the open-source community and sympathetic observers are welcome.

Q: May I take video footage / take photographs / report on the story?

A: Yes. Please let us know, so we can assist and answer your questions.

Q: How can I stay informed of plans, developments, and news?

A: Two things: Sign up for the Windows Refund Newsletter at http://zork.net/refund/ (the most important step), and send e-mail to rick@linuxmafia.com expressing interest.

Q: How else may I help?

A: To volunteer to be a "parade marshal", please e-mail marshals@linuxmafia.com. If you set up your own local Windows Refund Day site, please mail rick@linuxmafia.com, and we'll be glad to share information with you and link to your site.

Q: Specifically when and how are you doing all this?

A: Please see the schedule and directions. You need to be at one of our four assembly points no later than 10 AM.

Q: Is it OK if I just show up at the Microsoft office in Foster City?

A: No. Do not do that. Just take our word for it. There are things you would miss that you don't want to.

Q: The EULA says users should "promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions on return". Is there a time limit?

A: Not as such. Recent purchasers are particularly welcome, since it is more self-evidently true that they never wanted the bundled Microsoft product, never used it, and do not agree to the EULA.

Q: Will there be a pro-Microsoft counter-demonstration?

A: One Microsoft spokesperson has dangled the threat of a counter-demonstration, which we can expect would be heavily subsidized by Microsoft, like the free sushi at Windows NT user group meetings in the Bay Area. However, we expect that the media would react unfavorably to such an event, so we don't think it will happen.

Q: Monday, February 15th (Windows Refund Day) is Presidents Day. Will this be a problem?

A: No. Microsoft's Foster City office has confirmed that it will be open.

Q: Is it true, as Daniel P. Dern wrote in LinuxWorld, that Windows Refund Day will be the Ides of February?

A: Not quite. The "Ides of February" works out to Feb. 13th. One correct Roman name for Windows Refund Day would be "XV ante Kalendas Martius", or (in full) "[dies] quindecem ante diem Kalendas Martius". Since you asked.

Q: Aren't you just taking advantage of a legal loophole?

A: No. We're doing exactly what the EULA says: Those who don't want the bundled product, haven't used it, and don't accept its license terms were told explicitly by Microsoft in the EULA that Microsoft is "unwilling to license the software product" to them, and to return it for a refund. That is what we're doing.

Q: I don't like the mouse I got with my PC, either, yet it's part of the packaged deal, and I have to live with it. Why is this different?

A: It's different because Microsoft specifically provided for a refund, for anyone who doesn't accept the EULA. All of our participants are exactly that -- people who bought their computers to use exclusively for open-source operating systems that they prefer.

Q: Are you trying to bring back the bad old days, when computers were sold without a preconfigured operating system?

A: We're not challenging the practice of preloading. We're simply exercising our right under the EULA to return what is for us an unused, unwanted preload product, for refund.

Q: Why are you attacking Microsoft?

A: We're not attacking Microsoft at all, and acknowledge that many like its operating systems. We, however, prefer and use open-source OSes, and are therefore returning these unused Microsoft products, as provided by the EULA. Perhaps, if other people want "our" copies (which we are returning in pristine, unused condition), Microsoft can then sell them to people who actually want them and consent to the EULA.

Q: If you didn't want the bundled OS, why did you buy the bundle?

A: For one thing, in some cases (such as PC laptop computers), essentially no alternatives exist without a bundled Microsoft OS. For another, the refund offer is an official, inherent part of the bundle: That provision is written right into the license.

Q: Will you be returning other Microsoft bundled software that features the same sort of EULA (for example, Office 97), or just Windows?

A: Yes. You are welcome to join us to return any unwanted, unused bundled Microsoft product whose license contains the following or similar language:

If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, Manufacturer and Microsoft Licensing, Inc. ("MS") are unwilling to license the SOFTWARE PRODUCT to you. In such event, you may not use or copy the SOFTWARE PRODUCT, and you should promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund.

Q: I can't come. Can I get a t-shirt, anyway?

A: You can get a t-shirt by coming! Not otherwise. Period. VA Research is paying for and distributing these shirts, as thank-you gifts for attending.

Back to the Windows Refund for the Bay Area page

*Many commentators feel that, in a technical sense, Microsoft's OEM arrangements constitute "tying" rather than "bundling". We decline comment: This issue is far beyond the scope of our initiative, but interested readers may wish to consult extensive on-line materials, including a 1998 address by a U.S. DOJ official.