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'We only sell software now,' claims COO

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Budget-price PC vendor Microworkz has been hit with a lawsuit from Washington State alleging flagrant disregard of consumer protection law, according to a report on PC World News. We're not entirely surprised. Microworkz doesn't appear to have had much success selling computers, not least because it apparently had much success shipping them. Washington State's attorney general has received 95 complaints against Microworkz, and earlier this year the Web was alive with the comments of disgruntled folk who had ordered either the Webzter Net access box or its successor, the iToaster. The suit alleges Microworkz failed to deliver equipment, honour warranties, issue refunds and respond to customer inquiries about its Webzter computers. Curiously, PC World News describes Microworkz as a seller of software since it no longer makes any of its boxes, it simply provides the software. Arguably it doesn't even do that -- since the iToaster runs the BeOS, Microworkz probably hasn't had much input beyond creating the iToaster's minimalist front-end. Certainly, Microworkz no longer offers fully-fledged PCs or the Webzter, focusing solely on iToaster, which it sells online and through the Electronics Boutique chain in the US. A defensive Richard Latman, Microworkz' founder and COO, said: "We are now a software company and have had nothing to do with hardware for the last 42 days." It's odd, then, that his site should continue to advertise the company's zPC, Workz and Z-Series machines. And, by Latman's logic, IBM, Apple, HP, Sun et al are also just software companies. Latman is stepping down from the day-to-day management of Microworkz on 15 November, something he announced in August. He also announced he was making way for a new management team -- to expand "its organisational bandwidth" -- but the company has yet to announced the team's appointment. The $299 iToaster comes bundled with free Internet access, which is ironically enough the cause of another anti-Microworkz lawsuit, this time from US ISP EarthLink. The ISP claims it provided around 1000 Microworkz customers with free Net access accounts, but has yet to receive any payment from the hardware vendor. It's suing for breach of contract -- Microworkz is countersuing. Microworkz currently provides Net access through AT&T. ®

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