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15 March, 2004

unethical - Microsoft Office to govt. workers

This is an extended version of this SillyDog701 article, with more personal view.

According to this C|net report, Microsoft is sending free copies of its flagship products to US government employees. The gifts have street value of USD500 per copy.

This is a very unethical behaviour. Why's Microsoft sending away its flagship products for free? To selected high-influential customers, I have to add. Microsoft is giving away its flagship products after many governments are looking at open-source alternatives, not always free, but at a significant reduction of license spending. What is the main reason behind giving away Office product to government employees? One can easily conclude that employees will be more familiar with Microsoft's products hence reluctant to switch to alternative products. This is indirectly ensuring government departments will keep using Microsoft's Office as the standard application. This is something not many companies can affording doing.

Let's look back history. In 2001, the Microsoft's “Software for Schools” showed the world what Microsoft really wanted--to establish an advantage in educational sector, as well as building up its reputation.
Microsoft proposed a settlement, but, thanks God, Microsoft lost in the court.

The judge concluded that the level of funding for the schools and for a private foundation to administer the donations was insufficient, a shortfall that was “more acutely problematic when viewed in the context of the proposed settlement's potential adverse impact on competition.”

Microsoft's giveaway also comes as the company faces ongoing oversight by the Justice Department as part of its settlement of antitrust allegations.

A Microsoft representative said giving away the software is a way to let some customers experience new features. “The goal of the program was to give customers a taste of the software and allow them to learn how it might be of use to their organizations in a positive way,” Microsoft spokesman Keith Hodson said.

In a positive way to secure the organisation to use Microsoft products and paying for upgrading license? A very smart move that not every company can afford.

To address ethical concerns, Microsoft includes a note with copies of the software letting government workers know that they can send the software back to Microsoft without charge if receiving such a gift violates their agency's rules.
So they know what they were wrong, but still gambling?
“Government Entities: Microsoft intends that this product be used in accordance with applicable laws and regulations for the evaluation, use and benefit of your government agency only,” Microsoft states in the note. “You may, at your discretion, return this product package to Microsoft at its expense.”

Hodson said the company hoped such language would allow any agency that did not appreciate the offer to easily send back the software.

Microsoft actually hopes such language can help them get around in when comes to publicity and/or lawsuits.

> read the full story Army to Gates: Halt the free software (C|net News.com, 10th March 2004)

Other recommended articles:
What's so bad about Microsoft
Microsoft's really hidden files

Posted by Antony on 15 March 2004 8:34 PM | newstalk

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