Get your money back from Microsoft. Conditions apply.
by Niyam Bhushan
There's a bomb on the bus. If it stops, or even slows down
as it hurtles through the morning rush hour traffic, it will explode.
Sure. You remember the movie, 'Speed' starring Keanu Reeves.
But, do you
remember the advertising signboard at the rear of the doomed bus? An ad for
a bank, it said, "Money isn't everything. Yeah right." Well, money is
everything. And reading the fine print could get you a couple of thousand
rupees from Microsoft. Especially if you read the fine print on your
Microsoft package carefully.
"If you do not agree to the terms of this [agreement], PC
Microsoft are unwilling to license the software product to you," according
to a copy of the Windows end user licensing agreement, "and you should
promptly contact PC Manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused
products(s) for a refund."
I Want My Money Back
So how does it work? Simple. After purchasing your computer,
do not yet
switch it on. Read the Microsoft End User License Agreement (EULA)
carefully, looking for a clause that is similar to the one above. Then,
bring along a Linux or other OS system floppy, and, preferably in the
presence of the vendor that sold you the machine, and along with a few
witnesses, boot up the machine using your Linux, NetWare, BeOS, OS/2, or
other OS floppy, and delete the partition tables of your hard disk. You
would have then erased the Microsoft OS from your hard disk, without having
launched it even once. Then, contact the vendor or Microsoft immediately,
state that you have not accepted the EULA, and ask for instructions on how
to return the unused manuals and CD, so you may get your refund.
So you think I'm kidding. Go check out
www.netcraft.com.au/geoffrey/toshiba.html. Here you'll find the six-month
saga of Geoffrey Bennett. This intrepid Australian Linux user bought a
Toshiba laptop, and followed a similar procedure to delete his Windows
installation, and then kept following up with a startled Toshiba until they
sent him a refund cheque for A$ 110 in August 1998. Immediately after
Geoffrey updated his website, news travelled around the Web and millions of
people descended on his and other newly spinning Web sites across the Web on
the refund. To be fair, it was actually a woman called Donna who got the
first refund, from Canon, almost a year before Geoffrey got his. But
Geoffrey documented his story well, and even published a scanned image of
the cheque online. That of course, is like hungry sharks tasting blood in
the ocean. The scanned image of this historic cheque is eagerly loading
into thousands of browsers around the world, even as you read this.
Pulling out All the Stops
The Windows Refund Center, linuxmafia.com/refund/, is
effort to reimburse PC users running a non-Windows operating system for the
cost of their pre-installed OS. This Web site has a FAQ, as well as several
links to press coverage, area-wise centres, and online newsletter
subscriptions. Several campaigns are especially being waged among Linux
users, and, to publicize the movement, these groups have declared February 15
"Windows Refund Day." Admittedly motivated by the possibility of a
nice-sized check from Microsoft, the organizers say the larger goal is to
bring public attention to the open source movement, and to Microsoft's
licensing agreements with PC makers that preclude hardware vendors from
loading non-Windows operating systems.
"A lot of the people involved want a refund on principle,"
Jensen, Webmaster for the Windows Refund Center site and a Seattle-based
Linux user. "My longer-term goal would be to have Microsoft change its
licensing so they don't force companies to bundle Windows."
I am quite certain that Microsoft, in all fairness, will
people who prove they did not agree to the EULA. However, it throws open
the possibility of several unscrupulous people who may demand a refund
after pirating a copy of the pre-installed software, or demanding a refund
when they have launched or are still using the software anyway.
Cross-verifying the computers of thousands or even millions of people is
going to be costly and full of hassles. A better option is for Microsoft to
not bundle the software, and let users decide at the time of purchase.
Surely Microsoft has nothing to worry about; they own nearly 90% of the
If any one of you has already got a refund in India, or on
reading this is
applying for one, do let us know. I'm sure all readers would be interested
in your story.
Niyam Bhushan, Director, Digital Dionysus, consults and trains in digital
imaging, design, and publishing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted from the March 1999 issue of PC World India, by permission
of the author. Copyright © 1999, PC World India. All rights reserved.
Webmaster's note: Please see Windows Refund Newsletter Issue
#4 for why cooperating with Windows Refund Day will aid Microsoft in
combatting bootleggers, rather than impeding it.