Pain for His Bumbleness
As with all the best ideas it's amazing to think that no one had thought of it before. An Australian by the name of Geoffrey Bennett, who bought a Toshiba notebook but refused to pay for the Windows software that came with it - on the perfectly reasonable grounds that he had no intention of using it - demanded and won a refund of $110 (Aus) from the supplier.
The case sets an interesting precedent. Microsoft's dominance of the operating system market depends entirely on the bundling deals the company has with PC makers. Microsoft prices so-called OEM copies of Windows at a few dollars which makes it very difficult for manufacturers to say no.
Application software, typically Office, is thrown in for a few measly dollars more, making it difficult for customers to say no, too. Most PC suppliers are too cowardly to risk Microsoft's displeasure by bundling other software and even fewer dare flog their machines with anything other than Windows pre-installed. All of which makes Planet Microsoft a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, thanks to this brave little man, there are the first stirrings of a revolt against a fate worse than the blue screen of death. In two weeks' time a group of Linux users, who don't want the software they were obliged to buy with their machines, are going to turn up at Microsoft offices in California and New York and ask for their money back. Windows Refund Day, as it has been dubbed, is a purely symbolic act designed to illustrate a principle, but what can Microsoft do if large numbers of others take up the cause?
If it pays up, it stands to lose a lot of money, even if only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of owners of Microsoft operating systems demand a refund. Worse still, its OEM contracts will be fatally undermined. Manufacturers won't factory-install software unless they know they can pass the cost on and Microsoft will have to write a sale or return clause into their contracts. Also, the sums refunded will be under scrutiny, as Microsoft's adversaries in the DoJ and the consumer lobby consider whether there is a case to be made that products are being supplied below cost or at a price designed to win market share at the expense of fair competition.
Microsoft has every reason to hope that the size of its refunds won't be widely publicised because it could have unpleasant consequences for retail sales if the poor saps who have been buying the company's products off the shelf find that they have been paying several times more than the going rate. The heroic customer is a latter-day Oliver Twist, only in this version of the story, the hero says "No more" when faced with another bowl of MS Gruel for Windows (TM). Mole makes a note to send Mr Bennett a complimentary copy of Molesoft Lunix, the exciting new "freeware" operating system. Since our hero struck his blow for freedom of choice, Lunix has been the subject of numerous lucrative OEM deals with leading hardware manufacturers. Soon you won't be able to buy a computer running anything else.
In what could be Microsoft's most underhand tactic to date and certainly its most sickening, the company has come up with a new way to entrap gullible customers: it is asking for their trust. Attempt to download certain viewer software from the Microsoft Web site and you are asked to tick a box endorsing the statement: "Always trust content from Microsoft Corporation". Do not under any circumstances tick this box. If you do, you will have made a contract to buy Microsoft software for the rest of your life, which includes surrendering the right to criticise it in any way.
Microsoft has one further trick up its sleeve. In a last decisive stroke to secure the hearts of its customers it has acquired the worldwide rights to St Valentine's Day, which from now on will be known as Love Microsoft Day.
More news about Barney the Dinosaur, the sinister infiltrator of children's minds and bodies, which Mole has pledged to destroy. Since his appearances on this page, Barney has disappeared and is understood to be on the run.
According to Mole's sources in international intelligence, the fat little purple fraud was last seen boarding a plane for South America. Microsoft is saying nothing but it is clear that the company helped Barney stage his disappearance. Consult Microsoft's Technet CDs or its Web site and you will find documentary evidence to support the theory that Bill Gates planned the whole thing personally. Pay particular attention to the sections headed: "Sometimes Barney Starts Playing Peekaboo on His Own" and "Barney 'Fun on Imagination Island' Error Message: Barney Not Found".
According to the Bill Gates Personal Wealth Clock (www.webho.com/WealthClock), His Billness is now worth a staggering $97,000,000,000. If true, the news is particularly galling for Mole, who now faces the prospect that Mr Gates' personal wealth may soon exceed his. This bespectacled madman has to be stopped before he wrecks more innocent lives.
Fight back by joining Mole's campaign to win $97 billion worth of refunds from Microsoft. Windows users are invited to send a cheque or postal order to the value of #20, made payable to Molesoft (Refund Warchest a/c), and Mole will write a strongly worded letter to PC World and to Mr Sanjit Deram, the proprietor of his local computer emporium, Deram's Discount Electronics Warehouse. Messages of support can be sent to the usual address.
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