Microsoft – Charity Fight Continues

from the hello-scrooge dept

Microsoft’s battle with the Australian charity continues. Instead of realizing that (1) the charity is simply giving away completely unsupported versions of Microsoft software that (2) more than anything else could drive demand for MS products in the future – Microsoft has decided to be “generous” and donate 150 copies of Windows 95 and 10 refurbished computers – as opposed to just letting PCs For Kids put Windows 95 on their 2,300 refurbished computers. Of course, that leaves PCs for Kids with 2,150 computers they can’t put Windows 95 on. The worst part is that Microsoft values that “gift” at $33,000. Let’s see, we have 150 copies of completely unsupported software which can’t be valued at more than $10 a copy (being generous) and ten refurbished computers that are surely worth less than $1000 a piece. Being generous, I don’t see how that could be worth more than $12,000.

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Comments on “Microsoft – Charity Fight Continues”

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GW (user link) says:

Who's the most narrow minded

Microsoft, clutching their obsolete Win95 licenses to their wallets bosum, or the PC for Kid’s people who are more willing to fold (or so states the CNET article) then they are to look into alternative OS’s. Can you say LINUX? Or NEWDEAL? There are zillions of ways to provision a donated PC without stealing software to make it usable (i.e. wp, ss, db, browser, email, graphic editor, etc.) PC for Kid’s should stop their whining that rich old uncle Bill won’t give them enough, and move on to plan B. It’s called – THE REAL WORLD

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Can't agree with Mike here

Though I usually see eye to eye with Mike, in this case I only agree in part.

Sure, MSFT is being ridiculous in calling their “gift” of refurb PCs and Win95 generous. What a joke! Marginal cost to MSFT on the software is zero, and refurb PCs are a dime a dozen. By claiming the value at $33k, they will be able to write that off their gross, and save about $15k in taxes. Bill Gates has proven himself a very generous man, but MSFT is NOT a generous company.

Now, here’s where I disagree with Mike. Microsoft MUST stand against the pirating of its software under any and all circumstances. This is because:

– knowingly letting someone pirate your software leaves you legally vulnerable. Other piraters can later use a defense of “You let them do it, so you must let us.” The question becomes one of “How do you discriminate between piraters”. And that is a case no firm wants to argue. This is why companies rabidly protect their trademarks, seemingly overhandedly, even against small fry.

– selling software is how MSFT makes its money. Our society operates on the premise that the firm should work in its best interests, and deliver shareholder value. The OS is attributed a value, the market validates that value because some of us pay it. If someone is using the software that Microsoft invested to build, the MSFT shareholders are owed a return on their investment.

– I don’t see anyone giving GM a hard time for not giving the charity free cars. Of course not, I bet a thousand Fortune 1000 firms did’nt give to that charity. So what if the charity stole 20 GM trucks off a train yard? Would we then demand that GM concede and call it a donation? Is Microsoft being singled out just because it is easier to steal their products?

The world needs to take a strong kick in the pants to realize that intellectual property IS property. IP may look different, maybe you can’t touch it or feel it, and it may have no marginal cost of production, but it is the fruit of someone’s hard work. It is their bread and butter, and to steal it IS TO STEAL.

It’s like someone threw an Information revolution party, but no one showed up. Come on, Mike, let’s man the barricades.

Derek Kerton

Duffman says:

Re: Can't agree with Mike here

The other problem with the analogy is that the charity is not asking for new cars off the train. If you want to try a better comparison, they are essentially asking for old junkers that were just sitting around in the junkyard that were going to be thrown away anyway. But Mike’s got a good point – software and cars cannot be compared in a situation like this.

Anyway, I don’t necessarily like this analogy in the first place. How about this for a solution: Microsoft will sell the licenses for 1 cent apiece. Or 10 cents. Or 50 cents. Something relatively cheap. That way, they can still claim a donation – say that the software is worth $X apiece, and they’ve donated the balance, while the school gets legal copies. The school is not pirating, as they have bought copies of the software from Microsoft, and can afford as many as they need (even at $1 apiece, $2000 looks much more enticing than $600×2000=$1,200,000!!). MS keeps everything nice and legal, keeps up their front against piraters, and maybe gets a charity endorsement for being nice. This ain’t gonna happen, but I think it would be the best solution.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Can't agree with Mike here

Heh. I’ve discussed this one a number of times before… but I’ll do the quick review. Okay, the marginal cost to GM of giving away free cars is very high. If someone stole 20 GM trucks then those are 20 trucks that couldn’t be sold. That hurts GM.

This charity giving away PCs with Windows 95 on it isn’t hurting anyone. No one is going to sell fewer copies of Windows 95 (hell, you can’t even buy Windows 95 any more in most places) because of this. If anything, it’s going to help drive demand, because these kids will grow up used to using Microsoft products.

You can try all you want, but I don’t see it as theft. There may be other ethical questions about it – but it is different than stealing. I’m not necessarily saying that you should be able to do what you want with intellectual property – but to say it’s the same thing as tangible property is ignoring reality.

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