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Get overcharged by MS, win a free PC, says Lindows.com

Lindows vouchers feature in 'helpful' service

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Lindows.com has offered to help Californian software buyers take $1.1 billion out of Microsoft's hide. Or alternatively (or perhaps additionally), Lindows.com is mounting a blatant and shameless publicity stunt for itself on the back of Microsoft's antitrust settlement with California. 'File a claim against Microsoft and win a PC' is certainly a snappier come-on than the official claiming site though, so maybe we should let them off.

Lindows.com's more exciting version of the claiming process is available at MSfreePC.com, and goes approximately as follows. You fill in a series of forms that take you through the initial hurdles of the process, being told to go away if you didn't purchase software for use in California during the relevant period. 10,000 will get a free PC, which won't cost Microsoft a cent because it's nothing to do with Microsoft. In addition to this, the monetary value of the claim will depend on the amount of Microsoft software bought.

If you bought either just the one or six or more qualifying products, it tells you to go away and hassle the official claims processors instead. For two to five, you get vouchers for software from Lindows.com. If you make it to $100 worth of claim, for example, then you get StarOffice and LindowsOffice, LindowsCD, LindowsOS 4.0 and LindowsPlus, and for $50 you get just Lindows 4.0. All these are downloads, but you can get CDs if you pay shipping costs.

Erm, so why would you want to do this? Well, first take a look at the values involved. The settlement puts a $16 value on each Windows or Dos licence, $29 for Office, $5 for Word, Home Essentials or Works, and $26 for Excel. So three copies of Windows plus two of Excel bought between 1995 and 2001 gets you a whole $100 in vouchers from the settlement, anything else gets you less, and to what extent can you be bothered? The more people who can't be bothered the less Microsoft has to pay, argues Lindows.com's Michael Robertson, but if you can raise sufficient enthusiasm to file with MSFreePC.com, you'll at least get the Lindows software pile.*

The site has a FAQ giving more details, but it's not clear what happens to the claim once Lindows.com has got hold of it. The 'real' settlement forms require product IDs for whatever you bought, or alternative proof of purchase should you not have these. But Michael Robertson has an answer for this: "receipts or product IDs are required if a consumer is claiming 5 or fewer products for $100 or less.

"This is the rules that govern the settlement agreement which you can read on the official site. The only
requirement in this situation is for the consumer to agree under penalty of perjury that the information is
true - which they do in the process at msfreepc.com. If you go through the process, you'll see the legal
language. And at the final step, the consumer can view their information on a copy of the actual claim
form."

The offer closes on March 15 2004, depending on how fast people take it up. Your choice, Californians - we expect Michael will tell us how many of you joined up in a few months time, and California will reveal how much, or little, Microsoft got stiffed for rather later. Call the governor (whoever that might be) on March 16th. ®

* In his third email, Michael Robertson says you can also get StarOffice 6.0 for Windows, so it's not just Lindows software. Thanks Michael, that's quite enough emails for tonight, OK?

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