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Microsoft dishes free software to US charities

But how much is it really worth?

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Microsoft today announced it is donating "more than $7.1 million in software" to 10 US charities. Well, not quite really, because that's "the software's estimated retail value" -- the cost to Microsoft is minimal, and there are several significant advantages. Not least, it's tax deductible for Microsoft. It also stops the charities considering less-expensive alternatives to Microsoft's gift, although they will of course need hefty PCs to run it, and would be prevented from recycling donated surplus 386s or 486s. Greater kudos would be gained if Microsoft gave money and allowed the charities to choose the hardware and software that would be most useful for their circumstances. If they happened to choose non-Microsoft software, nobody need be told. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society volunteered to Waggener Edstrom, MS PR firm,for the press release that its "$2,001,000 grant" was the largest single corporate grant ever made to the Society. But that's at retail value of course. Could the cost to Microsoft have exceeded $10,000? We doubt it. We also suspect that the PR administrative costs of these "gifts" exceed the cost of the product to Microsoft. The next stage in the Microsoft trial is in a week's time. ®

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