Fans of Linux Plan to March On Microsoft
Benny Evangelista, Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
January 28, 1999
Hoping to spark a worldwide revolt, fans of the Linux computer operating system plan to march down to the local Microsoft Corp. office in Foster City on February 15 to demand refunds for unused copies of Windows.
Their premise is that people who buy computers preloaded with Windows 95/98 or NT are paying for the cost charged by Microsoft to the computer maker. But customers who load Linux or another operating software instead of using Windows are entitled to a refund, they argue.
Microsoft's end-user licensing agreement states that a computer user who does not agree to the terms of the license can contact the manufacturer ``for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund.''
The idea of a Windows Refund Day surfaced just last week on an Internet Linux discussion site, http://www.slashdot.org/, after word surfaced that an Australian Linux user, Geoffrey D. Bennett, had used the provision in the licensing agreement to get a refund because he doesn't use Windows. Bennett posted online messages saying he received a $110 refund from his laptop manufacturer after months of haggling.
Windows Refund Day organizers say they are trying to cut the red tape that prevents others from getting refunds.
``We want people who get Windows involuntarily to be able to exercise their claims promptly and conveniently,'' said Donald B. Marti Jr., a San Francisco Linux marketing consultant who is helping to coordinate refund day.
``You'd be surprised how many PCs people buy and boot straight into Linux and never run Windows at all,'' Marti said.
Organizers of the Bay Area event say there are also plans for simultaneous marches on Microsoft offices in Orange County, New York and Japan.
Although 2,700 people have signed up for an Internet update newsletter, organizers don't know how many people will actually show up at each site.
Rick Moen, a Linux user and San Francisco computer network consultant, said he was inspired to help organize the Bay Area refund day after reading about Bennett's experience.
Moen, who authored the refund newsletter available at http://zork.net/refund , said February 15 isn't supposed to be a ``Bash Microsoft'' day, but simply a chance for Linux users to make a point that not everyone wants Windows.
The organizers said that people seeking refunds should bring proof that they haven't used Windows, or bring in their computers.
Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn said the company has not decided how to handle the refund seekers, but said the license agreement calls for refunds to come from computer manufacturers, not from Microsoft.
The standard end-user license is supposed to thwart software piracy and is ``not really designed to be a referendum on Windows or how manufacturers ship PCs,'' Sohn said. ``If you don't want a Windows PC, you should buy a PC with whatever operating system you want.''
Dell Computer Corp. spokesman T.R. Reid said he did not know if any Dell customers have sought Windows refunds in the past, but said the vast majority of the firm's customers demand Windows.
Dell would honor a refund request by having the customer return the entire system, Reid said.
But eMachines Inc., a new Fremont company selling sub-$500 computers, this week agreed to refund $26 to a Bay Area woman who loaded Linux without booting Windows.
Computer-makers ``are obliged to do the same thing, if the consumer for whatever reason doesn't want Windows,'' said eMachines marketing director Pattie Adams.
©1999 San Francisco Chronicle