Windows Refund Day Momentum Builds

Benny Evangelista, Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle

February 13, 1999

Since its inception on an Internet bulletin board about three weeks ago, the idea of a worldwide Windows Refund Day on Monday has picked up steam.

As many as several hundred people, mainly fans of an alternative computer operating system called Linux, are expected to converge on a Microsoft sales and marketing office in Foster City at high noon.

Supporters of Linux say Microsoft's license agreement lets customers who bought computers with Windows preinstalled to seek a refund if they never used the software. Consumers can accept or reject the agreement when they first turn on a new PC with Windows, but Linux users bypass Windows and install their own software.

Rob Bennett, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows, said refunds have to come from the PC-maker, not from Microsoft. ``It's really not a Microsoft decision,'' Bennett said.

The rally has blossomed from a quiet demonstration into a full-fledged media event, complete with a small parade and musical entertainment by Severe Tire Damage, a local band whose musicians are high- tech workers by day.

Similar but smaller events are planned for Monday at other Microsoft offices from New York to New Zealand. Organizers hope to generate enough attention to make Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates take notice.

``I'm confident there will be refunds paid or at least agreed to be mailed,'' said Donald B. Marti, a San Francisco computer consultant who has helped organize Refund Day.

Microsoft, which does not give its employees Presidents Day off as a holiday, will have staff members greet the demonstrators as they would any other customer and ``help them understand what they need to do,'' Bennett said.

``But this fundamentally is really a public relations activity that is driven by Linux users to drive interest in their system,'' Bennett said.

Linux was developed by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds in 1991 and has been gaining fans who believe it works better than Windows, which runs on 90 percent of the world's new PCs.

Information on Windows Refund Day is posted at http://www.hugin.imat.com/refund

1999 San Francisco Chronicle