Microsoft's $844 Million Software Giveaway To Nonprofits: Pure Charity Or Cheap Marketing?

from the free-now-pay-later dept

Microsoft has just released its 2011 Annual Financial Report. But alongside that document's dry facts about its $69.9 billion turnover, and the operating income of $27.2 billion, Dj Walker-Morgan pointed us to a more interesting publication, Microsoft's 2011 Citizenship Report:

We release our Citizenship Report at the same time as our Annual Financial Report to give our broad base of stakeholders a full view of Microsoft’s financial and non-financial performance. Corporate responsibility means more than returning value to shareholders – it means engaging with stakeholders to address our responsibilities in the areas of environmental, social and governance issues. We believe all corporations have, as part of their license to operate, a responsibility to contribute positively to society on a global scale. To quote our company’s founder, Bill Gates: "It takes more than great products to make a great company."

So let's just take a look at the things Microsoft has been doing to "contribute positively to society on a global scale". Here's one detail:

We have increased corporate charitable giving year-over-year since fiscal year 2008, despite economic challenges. Our employees volunteered more time—more than 380,000 hours in the U.S. alone. We also contributed more cash and in-kind support to nonprofits—$949 million globally.

That's nearly $1 billion of cash and in-kind support to nonprofits – a big number. There's a web page devoted to these activities, with this paragraph giving some more information:

In FY2011 we donated more than $844 million in software to 46,886 nonprofits in 113 countries/regions.The value of software we have donated globally since 1998 is more than $3.9 billion. The FY2011 value of software donated now includes employee software donations; previous years’ in-kind giving numbers do not.

This means that of the $949 million dollars "contributed" to nonprofits, $844 million -- 88% – was actually software, presumably Microsoft's, since it's unlikely it went out and bought it from competitors.

What's harder to judge is how much that $844 million worth of software actually cost Microsoft: the specific phrase used is "fair market value". This has quite a well-defined meaning in US tax law:

The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the people who put up the web page about Microsoft's contributions to nonprofits were following that definition exactly. But equally, it seems likely that the gist is the same: it's a kind of rough price that you'd usually find in normal markets selling the products in question. And those prices are almost certainly well above the cost of manufacturing, especially if the software was delivered online, or if multiple installations were permitted.

So the actual cost to Microsoft of that donated software is likely to be only a small fraction of the $844 million "fair market value" cited. This inevitably tempers our admiration for Microsoft's ten-figure generosity somewhat.

But there's something else. Microsoft wasn't just handing out a bunch of any old products: it was giving away mostly Windows and Office, judging by a table showing a breakdown by region. Both of these are well-known for the lock-in effects they produce: once you start installing applications and creating documents with them, it's quite hard to move to a completely different platform like Apple or GNU/Linux. Most people don't even try.

So these free copies not only cost Microsoft considerably less than the $844 million figure it used to calculate that near-billion dollar total for its corporate brochure, but it wasn't really altruistic at all. With hundreds of thousands of copies of Windows being distributed (417,030 were supplied for refurbished computers alone), there is a very high probability that Microsoft will be benefiting financially – and not just in terms of goodwill -- from upgrades and follow-on sales for many years to come.

Making copies available at zero or very low prices is something that Microsoft has done time and again whenever there was any danger of customers "defecting" to open source. For example, in 2009, Russia planned to deploy free software throughout its education system. That didn't happen, in part because Microsoft offered to license Windows for $30 a copy (article in Russian.) It's part of the rough and tumble of the highly-competitive software business.

Still, it's a little rich for a company as profitable as Microsoft to try to dress this up as “corporate charitable giving.” It's really nothing of the kind: it's marketing, pure and simple, and Microsoft should be big enough to describe it as such.

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    Michael Becker (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:13am

    Lock in

    To be fair, nearly ANY software produces lock-in of some sort. If Apple had done this, they'd be locked in to using Apple products, if Red Hat had done it, they'd be locked in to linux. No one truly plays well with others. I've actually had the most luck moving MS Office doc's between systems than any other type.

     

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      Chris Puttick, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:17am

      Re: Lock in

      Actually. No. If you went down an open source route you would have (a) a choice of vendors and (b) a choice of people who could support and interoperate with the products you were using. If you went down the open standards route you could use any platforms and applications you chose and share files between all of them.

      Given that all of Microsoft's products have viable open source alternatives, giving free copies to the non-profits serves the interests only of Microsoft.

       

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        blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:35am

        Re: Re: Lock in

        The idea that the open source alternatives are as good as MS enterprise products is hogwash, otherwise no one would use them. Nothing can do what Sharepoint can do, nothing can do what an MS Project infrastructure can do, nothing can organize a system like AD can. Yes, there are alternatives to them all, but they simply are not as good. So giving non-profits free licensing to all that is a HUGE step up, since all they need is a decent sysadmin and they can run their organization with the same tools as the Fortune500.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          Careful! Your ignorance is showing!

           

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            blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

            I manage Windows, UNIX, Linux and MacOS Servers. Server2008R2 comes with better security and more support out of the box, can use any storage technology, and gets better IOPS. NTFS is by far the most stable file system until you get into WAN File system layers like Google uses. Its most easily virtualized and portable. You can use any DB on it (not true for other OSes), it integrates properly with EVERY 3rd party enterprise tool out there.

            Not only does it setup easier, it goes down less and requires FAR less support hours than an equivalent Linux/Unix build (running multiple services). Its also WAY cheaper than any proper UNIX setup, but performs WAY faster than any Linux build (in ways that matter to sysadmins, backup/restore performance, DB IOPS). Also, VSS is by FAR the best granular Disaster recovery tool on the planet, it destroys all *nix versioning support.

            Yes, Linux is better for a simple web server, and Unix is better for a 4-D comprehensive database, but for everything in the middle Windows blows it away.

             

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              :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              As a person who does software/firmware/hardware development across systems which span from 4MHz hard-coded microprocessors on up to local & server computers, I can tell you Windows is acceptable only in the little niche where they've been working hard to drive out everybody else.

              They live in the corner, scared of all competition.

              And, it doesn't play well with pretty much anything.

               

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              Terry Wilson, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              @blaktron

              "VSS is by FAR the best granular Disaster recovery tool on the planet, it destroys all *nix versioning support."

              Thanks for quite possibly the best laugh I have had in quite some time!

              As a seasoned .Net developer I can say that VSS sucks. TFS (as version control) is average at best and bloody slow. Subversion is a way better product than VSS could ever be and Git is a little better than VSS (even though it doesn't have all of VSS feature-set).

              Haven't you just swallowed the MS FUD pill!

               

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              JackSombra (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:27am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              ", it integrates properly with EVERY 3rd party enterprise tool out there."
              Think you are putting the chicken before the egg there. More accurate would be "EVERY 3rd party enterprise tool out there integrates properly with it"

              Subtle but important difference, yours is saying MS is the best at 3rd party integration because of MS, later says 3rd party developers make sure their products work well with the most used software...and it's the latter that is correct

               

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              cc (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:28am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              The people you were responding to you don't like locked-in products for ideological reasons. It's really not an issue of things running out of the box vs things needing a bit more setting up, that's quite irrelevant to the discussion.

              You just have to accept that Microsoft is doing its darnest to undermine open standards. That's just the reality of things. NO amount of Microsoft shilling is going to change anyone's mind about open standards being better than proprietary lock-in.

               

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          Mike42 (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:49am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          As a software developer who mainly uses Microsoft products, I can tell you you're full of it. Microsoft is a safe bet, and sets up faster. Period. There are a lot of competing software in the open source arena which can do the things Microsoft products can do. It certainly can't do it out of the box, but then, you have the source code, don't you?

          Microsoft used to have massive documentation as well, but that's pretty much down the can. Useful tech docs are few and far between, and most people have to rely on Microsoft Partners, who have a direct line to Redmond.

          There's less and less you can do with Microsoft products. And if they don't get the message, you can bet that they will be losing considerable market share in the coming years.

           

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            blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:58am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

            Software Developers dont manage complex systems. i do. Trust me, MS is a good bet.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              Software Developers dont manage complex systems

              Also, VSS is by FAR the best granular Disaster recovery tool on the planet


              My brain just exploded.

               

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              Rich Kulawiec, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              Let me fix that for you:

              In my limited and brief experience, Software Developers dont manage complex systems.

              Many novices such as yourself often say things like this because they lack both the depth and breadth of experience to realize that not every development environment has the same goals, the same methodologies, the same personnel, the same tools, the same ANYTHING. There are some software developers who don't manage complex systems -- in fact, they don't manage any systems at all. But at the other end of the spectrum there are software developers who manage fiendishly complex systems...and some of them do it very well.

              Along the continuum in the middle lie all the possible variations. And one of the ways to recognize good developers (although not the only one) is to note those who are capable of systems management -- because it portends well for their chances of crafting software that is actually manageable by others. Moreover, good developers will craft their own development environments -- top to bottom -- and manage those as well.

              And the best developers can do it all: they're as agile with network design as kernel tuning as shell scripting as database interfacing as algorithm implementation. They're not common (of course!) but they're also far better at systems management tasks than nearly all of the people who actually have that in their title.

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          Except, they're only giving them windows and office - none of that other shit you just mentioned.

           

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          cc (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:58am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          Do you see this? It's the world's smallest open-source violin.

           

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          Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          I want some of whatever this guy is smoking.

           

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          DC, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Lock in

          Share point sucks. Really, I have to deal with it. AD is the best "ldap" compatible directory service? Seems unlikely. Ease of integration?

          What you mean is that a homongenose MS infrasturcutere is easier to manage than an unhomongesose inf. However studies have shown that a relatively homgenose *nix inf. takes an order of magitude fewer adims.

           

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            Rich Kulawiec, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

            Sharepoint not only sucks, it doesn't really DO ANYTHING.

            Of course, the inferior people who advocate Microsoft products don't and won't grasp this. They will prattle on and on and on about how great it is, never realizing that they've been conned -- or, if they do, refusing to admit it.

             

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              freak (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

              After trying to look it up, and stumbling through all the meaningless business jargon, I have no idea what it even purports to try to do.

              I have a general skepticism of anything that needs that much marketing, so I think I'll choose to believe you instead of researching, until it matters to me.

               

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                Rich Kulawiec, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

                I've actually done considerable research on it -- not because I wanted to, believe me.

                And you've hit upon the key in one sentence: borrowing from your comment, it's ALL marketing. There's nothing there. It's a grandiose pile of software which purports to do everything...and nothing. It's as if -- and this may not be too far off from the truth -- it was explicitly designed so that its feature set aligned with as many RFPs as possible.

                And in a business sense: that's quite clever. There are PLENTY of CIOs who are utterly clueless morons, and will believe this kind of marketing BS. So by speaking directly to them in a language they understand, Microsoft has found a readymade customer base. And well, nobody ever got fired for buying IBMxxxMicrosoft -- they just got more money in the next year's budget to keep desperately attempting to make it work.

                But certainly anyone who advocates it is signalling, very loudly and very clearly, that they are technically incompetent -- not to mention appallingly naive.

                 

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                  freak (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lock in

                  I'll say that you won't convince me until I've seen, and understood, the research, but man, you've managed to hit all my skepticism buttons :p



                  Irrelevant comment: people like you are the ones who make me think the REAL upcoming dilemma in the computer world is that there are only 17k 3-letter acronyms :p
                  Just something I've noticed over your posts.

                   

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        Eugene (profile), Oct 9th, 2011 @ 9:23pm

        Re: Re: Lock in

        "Given that all of Microsoft's products have viable open source alternatives"

        Microsoft Word. Name ONE. ONE. Piece of open source word processing software that isn't a steaming pile of crap. Just one. You may not like word, but there is NO other word processing software out there that doesn't suck in horrible, horrible ways. That will either crash and send your documents into the aether, or lack every feature you're looking for. If you don't use Word, then your choice is either stability or feature-robustness, but not both. If you want both, you go back to Word. Period. End of story.

         

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:27am

      Re: Lock in

      You can't be vendor-locked to something that isn't provided by a single vendor. How many alternate companies provide Windows-compatible OSes? How many alternate companies provide Mac OS clones? There are a lot of vendors that provide Linux, and you don't even have to buy it from one of them.

      That's like saying that being vendor locked to HP is as bad as being vendor locked to "laser printers" because you can't put ink cartridges in them.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:19am

      Re: Lock in

      If Apple had done this, they'd be locked in to using Apple products


      Apple did do this in the first Jobsian era, giving computers and software for free or nearly free to schools all over the country. They played up the altruism aspect of this (and there is one), but they were also up front about the marketing aspect. They said numerous times that part of the reason they were doing this was to get students accustomed to using Apple computers so that as they moved forward in life, they would buy them. Further, they stated, this would create pressure for businesses to use Apples instead of others because they'd have a large part of the workforce that would want to use the same computer at work as they had at home.

      In the end, this strategy sort of worked and sort of didn't. It did get Apple up to around 10% market share, and it did help to cause a deep entrenchment in certain demographics, but in the big picture did not result in significant victory.

      The "lock-in" effect is real, but the power of it is often greatly exaggerated.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:22am

      Re: Lock in

      This has been done by Apple on the hardware side for years it seems that when I went to school in the 80s and 90s, Apple did a lot of free/heavily discounted systems for the schools. All in an effort to try to build a growing base of systems.

      That being said -- I've been involved in trying to figure out the cheapest way to get valid Microsoft Windows licences and it truely sucks. Free software may not cost Microsoft much, but it is a big savings to the NPO.

       

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      DC, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:11am

      Re: Lock in

      Not precisely true. Products that conform to open standards generally work cross platform. Or even closed standards. Pretty much MS follows either.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:13am

    I don't believe their motiviation is even remotely alltruistic, instead it is a self-serving and strategically necessary step to maintaining market share. Microsoft donates sofware to schools, knowing that when these kids enter the workforce they will want to work with what they are already familiar with. Apple does similar things, why do you think these technology vendors sell student editions of their software or offer discounted pricing on hardware for students, it isn't to be charitable.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    I can see you're trying to dress this up like it's a bad thing, but this is a good thing. Marketing or charity, it doesn't matter. Non-profits need technology and the software to operate it. Linux and OpenOffice are free, so why would a non-profit bother with getting donated software from Microsoft? Because that's the software they want to use but can't afford. Yes, mostly it because of familiarity, but the non-profits are choosing to be "locked in".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      Absolutely agree with this. At least they are donating "SOMETHING" - better than running a company that is richer than the 'government' itself *cough* Apple *cough* and outsources more than 500K jobs elsewhere rather than invest within the country. Business is business as usual for some.

       

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 6:19pm

      Re: Because that's the software they want to use but can't afford.

      Surely the rational thing for a cash-strapped outfit to do would be to make the choice that doesn’t bind them to ongoing costs. So they get it for free now, what happens when it comes to upgrade time? They have to go back, hat in hand, for the next donation, and the next, and the next.

      And remember, with vendor lock-in, they have very limited choice in this: they get new hardware, and find the old software won’t work on it any more, so they don’t even have the choice of continuing to use the old version.

      So donations of proprietary software always come with strings attached—very long and sticky strings.

       

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        Eugene (profile), Oct 9th, 2011 @ 9:32pm

        Re: Re: Because that's the software they want to use but can't afford.

        The alternative is getting something shoddy like OpenOffice, then having to deal with being on their own forever when it comes to managing and updating their software. Microsoft has an support structure that the computer illiterate can lean on. What does open source have? What open source services even exist that care about people who don't know how to make their software work?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Glynn, I think you are working yourself into a tizzy for nothing here. Microsoft "donates" the software, and claims the retail price as it's donation. It is nothing that thousands of other companies don't already do every year, from soup to telephones, from paper to radio advertising airtime. It's all the same, all over.

    Businesses also do look at donations and charitable work as marketing, it's why they so proudly put their logos on the buildings, wave flags at events, and have their logos on the press releases and such. They could do the charitable work without mentioning it and without taking advantage, but in the end, they do it because it gets them a better profile in the community. Microsoft isn't alone in doing this sort of thing. Heck, ever celebrity who appears at a fund raising event or lends their name to a charity is doing it not only to help them out, but also to help themselves out. Otherwise, they would do it privately and quietly.

    Why hate on Microsoft so much?

    I think you are reaching way, way, way too far on this one for nothing. Your outrage is misplaced, and seems like a hit piece from the "free software" people (such as yourself). Bitter much?

     

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      out_of_the_blue, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:31am

      Re: @Anonymous Coward: "Microsoft isn't alone in doing this sort of thing."

      Standard corporate shilling. It's actually required in the shill handbooks: "everyone does it".

      That every corporation does it only points up the uniformly evil nature of corporatism, doesn't excuse anything.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:13am

        Re: Re: @Anonymous Coward: "Microsoft isn't alone in doing this sort of thing."

        Sorry, I think you are wrong here. It's "standard accounting practices", it's how it is done.

        The companies themselves do it for less than altruistic reasons, but in the end we get the same results - their taxes drop, the non-profits get a benefit, and away you go.

        I think Glyn is just upset because they aren't using freebieware OSes and other software people aren't familiar with, instead of the common MS stuff.

         

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          freak (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:28am

          Re: Re: Re: @Anonymous Coward: "Microsoft isn't alone in doing this sort of thing."

          *sigh*

          The reason we don't like it, likely including Glyn but he might not share my particular opinion, is because that $1 billion doesn't mean what they make it seem like it means.

          Of that $1 billion, almost none of it comes out of their pockets. They could have installed all free OS's and software instead . . . or, they could have downloaded pirated versions instead.

          End effect is that the organizations which received this 'charity' are just as well off as they would be if Microsoft hadn't stepped in.

          It didn't cost them $844 million to gain that $844 million worth of tax refund, that's more where we're pissed off.

           

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            freak (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: @Anonymous Coward: "Microsoft isn't alone in doing this sort of thing."

            "End effect is that the organizations which received this 'charity' are just as well off as they would be if Microsoft hadn't stepped in."

            That's inaccurate. Let me fix this:

            End effect is that the organizations which received this 'charity' could potentially have been as well off as they would be if Microsoft hadn't stepped in. They may also have still bought microsoft products. (I don't think using MS products is a wise choice either way, but some people, like Blaktron here, disagree.)

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:50am

      Re:

      Amen!

       

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    A Dan (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Spin

    This year, a group of charitable drug dealers gave out over $1 billion in cash and in-kind support.

    You can judge for yourself the positive effects on the communities they donated to.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2011 @ 7:35pm

      Re: Spin

      You can scoff, but as the drugs are non digital products, they have an actual cost.

      Now, okay, there is a certain type of lock in with addiction, but still you are taking a risk.
      If I wanted a safe bet, I'd got the msoft route and give away for free, something that has an actual cost of absolutely nothing.
      All of the potential lock in, none of the actual expenditure, win, win.

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:25am

    And don't forget that inflated value is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE.

    But at last, an anti-corporation piece. -- Easy target, though. More importantly, just the ONE when ALL corporations are inherently corrupt. They've even got statutes passed that say corporations central duty is to make profits for shareholders: that's just a trick so plutocrats can avoid any duty to workers or society.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:56am

      Re: And don't forget that inflated value is TAX-DEDUCTIBLE.

      I wouldn't say all corporations are corrupt. But even when they avoid blatantly unlawful or even criminal practices they do have to generate profits for the stakeholders as you said. And the more the better. This leads to the excesses we see today. Corporations are as greedy as their owners are.

      As for Microsoft, they should be afraid yes. And they should be very careful with PC gaming. If things go out of Windows and to Linux they are basically screwed.

       

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    Goyo, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    we donated more than $844 million in software
    So Microsoft does not own that software anymore? No, this is a lie.

     

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    blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Bet Red Hat and Novell don't donate a Billion dollars worth of free support contracts that you *need* to use their OS's and products.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:49am

      Re: Duh

      Well, yeah.
      That's because a donated support contract costs WAY more than a donated $0.50 dvd with an alleged 'Operating System' on it.

       

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        blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:08am

        Re: Re: Duh

        You know every windows License comes with 2 support calls free right? So if they gave out, what? Lets say a million licenses, thats 2 million support calls they donated. Lets see a Linux distro beat that.

         

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          Terry Wilson, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Duh

          The support calls are tied to the license, so they couldn't have more than 2 freebie calls for a given license. Meh!

           

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            blaktron (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Duh

            My Point is find any other software company that gives away for free what they charge money for (In MS's case, its licenses, in a Linux providers case it would be support contracts)

             

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              Terry Wilson, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Duh

              "My Point is find any other software company that gives away for free what they charge money for"

              Given the cost of their licenses, damn right they should include 2 free support calls.

               

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              freak (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Duh

              Generally, with the open source community, I get an unlimited amount of help with my OS troubles, and even with a lot of stuff that isn't due to my OS. A lot of times, they've taken the time to write up nice tutorials to tell me what's what and show me around, and are still willing to help me, (for free, I'll remind you) if I can't RTFM or if my problem slips through the cracks.


              Of course, I've also never needed to ask for support, because of the extensive documentation which often already does address my exact problem down to model #'s.



              My point is, in general, (there are exceptions), Linux distros aren't made or run by commercial entities and they still outperform MS.

               

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                BeeAitch (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 6:03pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Duh

                Add to that the Linux community is very helpful to anyone with questions.

                Go to linuxquestions.org and take a look around or ask questions. You'll find plenty of helpful people there.

                The worst attitude you'll get is the occasional RTFM, and if you haven't done due diligence with Google, you deserve it.

                Much better than "Peggy" at the MS help desk in India, reading the same screens (verbatim) you just clicked through using MS's "help" buttons, IMHO.

                 

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    Ben (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    TechSoup

    I think a lot of their donations go through TechSoup.org; I know the Historical Society I work with has gotten MS products through there (quite cheaply). Of course I/we would *never* have purchased those products at full price, which is probably what they count as their "donation". But it does provide some service to the Non-Profits, even if they get to claim more than it really is/was.

     

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      BillCurnow (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 11:10am

      Re: TechSoup

      Say what you will about being locked in, etc, but the TechSoup program is a wonder tool for non-profits. TechSoup acts as a clearing house matching qualified non-profits and schools with software publishers. If the organization meets the requirements put in place by the publisher they can purchase software at deep discounts, often free, while paying TechSoup an administrative processing fee.

      Microsoft is obviously one of the larger publishers in the TechSoup system, and they have restrictions in place to make it harder for individuals to game the system. For example, you can only purchase 1 a year and, if I remember correctly, you can only purchase 5 SKUs at a time. Need one package 3 months later? You'll need to wait another 9 months.

      The TechSoup system is a bit inconvenient, but the benefits to the non-profits make it worth the hassle. Several years ago the non-profit I volunteer with needed to purchase 15 copies of Office Professional Plus 2007. It cost us a total of $300, or $20 per computer. That's real savings, meaning lower IT costs and less money diverted away from service delivery. Those were the savings for a single office, but we have over 800 offices in the U.S. The savings start to add up to real money after a while.

      The point of this article, however, is whether Microsoft is right to state that they donated $844M worth of software when it cost them far less to do so. Frankly, it doesn't matter. The IRS says that the difference between what they could have sold the software for and what they sold it for is the value of the donation, not the difference between their cost and the sale value. It might only cost (hypothetically) Microsoft $50 to produce a $400 software program, but if they sell (or donate) that program to 501(3)c for $0 the IRS allows them to count that as a $400 donation, not a $50 donation. If they sold it for $50 it would be a $350 donation.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    Still, it's a little rich for a company as profitable as Microsoft to try to dress this up as “corporate charitable giving.” It's really nothing of the kind: it's marketing, pure and simple
    Psst... not only are the donations a form of marketing, so is the 2011 Citizenship Report.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    What Software Giveaway?

    From what I can tell, M$ didn't even giveaway the software it's claiming to have. All it did was give permission for use. M$ still retains ownership of the software they supposedly gave away. What a load.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    Mercy and Charity from the King's View

    Like the tyrant king who claims to be showing "mercy" when he occasionally grants someone a quick death rather than torturing them to death, Microsoft claims to be showing "charity" when it uses its government-granted monopoly to grant someone permission to use a program rather than bludgeoning them with licensing fees.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Mercy and Charity from the King's View

      Giving away Windows CDs is like torturing someone to death? I mean, I could see the connection if they were AOL CDs, but a free Windows CD isn't that bad, more like a punch to the kidneys.

       

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    Rich Kulawiec, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    The first sample is always free...

    ...it's the second and subsequent ones that'll cost you.

    But I will say, it's highly amusing to watch the weak, the stupid, the ignorant and the gullible fall for the scam over and over and over again.

     

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    Trails (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:44am

    Pure Charity Or Cheap Marketing? Both!

    Tehy're giving away stuff for free. While they may anticipate lock-in effect, the fact of the matter is that for many of these folks they would have bought the software if they had the money, so MS giving it to them is still beneficial to them.

    MS clearly sees and leverages this as marketing opportunity (a great deal of corporate charity sponsoring is marketing) but that being said, it's helped people. MS should be applauded although maybe not as loudly as they are applauding themselves.

     

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    Airbender, Oct 7th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    I Am The World's Most Charitable Person!

    Having been given a royal monopoly on the breathing of air by the King of the virtual Kingdom of Airdonia, everyone who breathes owes me whatever I want for the right to breathe. Fear not, though, for I am a charitable person and am for now allowing everyone to breathe for free. However, the combined amount that the world's population would be willing willing to pay for the right to breathe is surely so large as to be incalculable, thus making me the most charitable person in the world.

     

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    Andrew (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    I'm not sure this is entirely fair. Sure it's in MS's interest to have people using their software for free than using others' software for free, and sure the actual cost of the donated software is going to be a lot less than $844m (and, more to the point, lost sales are going to be considerably less than $844m too), but that doesn't mean it's not significant. (And this ignores the approx. $100m that was not software and 380,000 hours of donated time.)

    To take another example, the sanofi-aventis Patient Assistance Foundation has apparently given $321m as of 2009. (I'd link to it, but the last comment I posted with a link was blocked.) Their aim is "to assist U.S. patients with limited financial resources in accessing needed sanofi-aventis medications". I bet those medicines didn't cost $321m to make, but I imagine the people who received those medicines were no less grateful because of that.

    There's value in breaking down these figures to see how large such a donation really is, and there's also value in exploring the benefits Microsoft accrues from such acts, but please don't be too cynical about it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2011 @ 7:41pm

      Re:

      Hmmm, if the gratitude of the recipient of the dispensation is how we judge the goodness, decency or value of an act, then that reminds me of the surely apocryphal story about Frank Sinatra saving a guys life.
      These three Mafia thugs, were beating this guy so bad he feared he would die, but then Frank said "That's enough boys!" and they stopped.

      He was very grateful and Sinatra comes out a hero in that story.

       

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    fb39ca4 (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 5:50pm

    This isn't a donation.

    Software is not a scarce good, it doesn't cost Microsoft anything to manufacture it if it is distributed digitally, so in effect they are giving up nothing in exchange for free marketing and tax breaks. So I don't see why Microsoft should get those tax breaks.

     

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    fb39ca4 (profile), Oct 7th, 2011 @ 5:54pm

    This isn't a donation.

    Software is not a scarce good, it doesn't cost Microsoft anything to manufacture it if it is distributed digitally, so in effect they are giving up nothing in exchange for free marketing and tax breaks. So I don't see why Microsoft should get those tax breaks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2011 @ 10:10am

    How much did Apple give? Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Hell, they won't even give away OS X.

     

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    TD, Dec 27th, 2011 @ 9:08pm

    Yeah, this is pretty lousy. ALL software causes lock-in, and open source is crap. There's a reason Linux has never taken over, and its not because of some Microsoft conspiracy - its because Linux is bad as a personal computing solution (it is good for other things, but most normal people, especially not nonprofits, don't need that).

    Sorry, but Microsoft is doing a good thing here. Giving away good, user-friendly software which has the best compatibility of any of the OSes, and the best office software, is not a bad thing, and let's face it, how many companies are actually going to buy all that much MORE than office anyway? If they get whatever database software they need, they're pretty much done.

    You're acting as though Microsoft has this huge amount of stuff they COULD be giving away, but aren't, but they are in fact giving away -their best products-. Whining about this is just a show of you being terrible.

    Do companies use charity as a form of marketing? Obviously. But this is true of all companies ever, and doesn't mean its not good for the charities - it just means that the companies get something out of it too. And the fact that Microsoft gives away so much is in fact noteworthy. A billion dollars NOT spent on OS/office is a hell of a lot of money as, let's face it, what else were they going to buy?

     

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    Sam, Apr 25th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

    I don't seen such big giveaway by Microsoft on internet. If the giveaway is so large then it may be publish anywhere in the internet or the pricing is huge.

     

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