Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/03/16/ms_gives_away_win2k_pro/

MS gives away Win2k Pro code for free

Full code dished out in error, instead of 120 day trial as mag cover mount

By John Lettice

Posted in Business, 16th March 2000 15:23 GMT

Microsoft faces something of a licensing issue in Spain, following the accidental free distribution of an estimated 100,000 copies of full, non time-limited Windows 2000. The code was cover-mounted by the Spanish edition of IDG's PC World, which we understand has had record-breaking sales for the month. In the wake of the Windows 2000 launch Microsoft has been liberally sprinkling 120 day trial versions of the product around the industry (very decently stumping up to do so via The Register, among other places). This was the version that was intended to go out with PC World, but finger-trouble somewhere let the real thing escape instead. The news first broke in thee discussion forum of Spanish news site iBrujula.com, and although it seems that in at least some cases the key printed on the CD didn't work, a key that did swiftly escaped onto the Web, and PC World's Spanish sales were instantly assured. Working on a retail price for Win2k of Pts 57,000, or $330, and assuming circulation of 100,000, that puts Microsoft's loss at a cool $33 million. We know that's not really what Microsoft has lost, because few, probably very few, of the now proud owners of a gratis Win2k would actually have bought it. But as certain software companies habitually just multiply the number of counterfeit copies by the price in order to estimate their piracy "losses," there's an exquisite irony associated with doing the sums this way. But what's Microsoft going to do about it? There now exists a large body of users with working copies of Win2k, but without legitimate licences. So if they don't turn themselves in after 120 days, does Microsoft bust them? Or if the finger trouble was at the magazine rather than Microsoft (which we doubt), should Microsoft hit IDG for a large fee, and legitimise the users? Tricky call. ® See also (in Spanish): iBrujula.com story iBrujula forum section