Microsoft has started a pilot program rewarding computer system builders for turning their customers over to Microsoft's license enforcement department. If the builder or reseller receives an RFQ (Request For Quote) that includes computers to be shipped without Windows installed, Microsoft wants a copy of the RFQ sent to them, and, if you are the first to submit that particular RFQ, you'll be awarded points toward winning prizes. Full text is included below.
Microsoft says this is to "help you help your customers be compliant".
Will system builders and resellers turn in RFQs and trust Microsoft to maintain the promised "privacy"? Well, they're obviously pitching to individuals, not companies, and I bet there's plenty of employees at many builders who would scramble for the opportunity.
What will happen to companies that submit the RFQs? I suspect they will be subjected to one of Microsoft's fearsome license audits, and will probably end up paying many thousands of dollars in fines. For details of this gut wrenching process, see our article Software Licensing.
In other license enforcement action, we (and probably everyone else in Microsoft's System Builders program) have been called on the phone by Microsoft reps asking if we have bought any copies of Microsoft products from other than their approved distributors, and if so is there any possibility that they could be selling "non genuine" products. I wouldn't be at all surprised if resellers that turn in distributors for "non genuine" products are themselves audited for having purchased such products.
[ UPDATE: 5-May-01 - Once The Register based a news item on this article (and provided a link back to here), it was picked up by /. (Slash.Dot) and Linux Today, and from there picked up by many news publications including the Wall Street Journal. Links to articles by these publications are listed below.
For several days we got many phone calls from noted columnists and our Web site was visited many thousands of times (but was mysteriously off-line almost all day Tuesday (we have no evidence Microsoft was responsible)).
Microsoft remained silent until mid-week when "big names" like Brian Livingston and the Wall Street Journal started calling. Spokesperson Matt Pilla stated the whole thing was blown way out of proportion, that the contest was not aimed to sniff out companies using Linux and other operating systems, but just companies "misinterpreting" their licenses for Microsoft products.
How the press (both print and on-line) ran with this story shows just how deep distrust of Microsoft runs. People would be amazed if any other major corporation did something like this, but from Microsoft it's just expected. As a well known columnist from Ziff Davis remarked while he was interviewing me, "This is just so Microsoft".
Matt Pilla is right saying the contest was being widely misinterpreted. The Linux community in particular did not read the email carefully enough and presumed it was a direct attack on companies ordering computers to use with Linux. A careful reading shows you can only earn prizes if the RFQ states the company has Microsoft site licenses.
Matt Pilla is wrong, however, in saying reaction was overblown. This is very serious stuff.
Press Based on This Article
Full Text of Microsoft's eMail to System Builders
MIND YOUR RFPs and Qs Action: Mind Your RFPs and Qs Microsoft OEM Western Region Pilot Program Identifying PC Bids that do not include an Operating System for each PC Microsoft OEM western region introduces a pilot program that rewards you for notifying us about Bids that do not include operating systems and helps you help your customers to be compliant. WHAT: We understand that there is some confusion regarding Microsoft licensing of Operating Systems and we need your help in assuring that each and every PC has a licensed and legal operating system. WHY: It has come to our attention that many organizations that are sending out bids believe that because they have enrolled in a Microsoft volume license program (i.e. Select Agreement or Enterprise Agreement), that operating systems for newly-acquired PCs are automatically enrolled in the volume program as well. There is no volume licensing program at Microsoft that covers operating systems for new PCs. Therefore, we strongly advise that each new PC that will be running a Microsoft Operating System be pre- installed with an OEM version of the Operating System. The alternative would be to purchase retail product, at greater cost and inconvenience to your customers. Following is an excerpt from a bid that was recently revised to include operating systems. "The Company has a site license for most Microsoft software including the Windows Operating Systems. The vendor will be responsible for installing a Company image that includes the Windows Operating Systems at no additional charge. Documentation providing proof of the Company's site license will be provided upon award of the contract. All software required to operate or interface with the equipment covered in this bid shall be supplied without additional cost to the Company. Such software includes but is not limited to drivers for hard drives to interface with network software. Windows 98, ME and NT drivers shall be provided, if available. All software drivers should be pre-installed and configured without memory or internal conflicts prior to delivery." NOTE: The licensing program referenced above and all Microsoft licensing programs only cover upgrades of operating systems for existing PCs. It is to your benefit as an OEM to sell Operating Systems with each PC, especially if you will be servicing and supporting your customer. MIND YOUR RFPs and Qs You may be eligible to win prizes! Here's how. By submitting bids that request PC systems without an Operating System due to a Microsoft site license, you can earn points and win! - Notify and provide copy of the bid to your Microsoft Account Manager at: SBWest@microsoft.com Notification must be received by June 30th to be eligible. Your submission will be acknowledged and acted upon within 24 hours If you are the first to identify the bid you will be awarded one point for each PC specified on the bid. Points from multiple bids may be combined through 6/30/01. POINTS REWARD 250 points 5 Microsoft game titles 500 points Above reward plus a Fossil Big Tic watch 1000+ Above rewards plus a Fast Cook & Grill Combo and Travel Chair **Please note that your privacy will be maintained - Microsoft will not disclose your Company's identity as the source of the bid information. ***At your request a letter can be sent to the issuing Company clarifying Microsoft licensing policies.
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