An online group of non-Windows users is seeking refunds from Microsoft for their unused, unwanted copies of the Windows operating system that shipped with their PCs.
The group, referring to the bundled operating system as a "Microsoft tax" on all computers, is rallying Linux, BeOS, BSD, OS/2 and NetWare users to demand a refund on Feb. 15 because of the wording in Microsoft's end-user licence agreement (EULA).
Although the communities planning to protest do not have the numbers to be a significant force, there could be greater ramifications if corporate IT takes an interest, according to Scott Miller, an analyst at Dataquest in California.
Corporations could use this as a way to avoid being charged twice for their copies of Windows, according to Miller.
For example, even if a company has a site licence for a certain number of Windows seats, each new system it buys from an OEM will come with another copy of Windows pre-installed. The company pays for both the site licence and the individual user licence, which translates into buying two licences for each seat.
"If this opens up the possibility that corporations can go this route, it gets more interesting," Miller said. "If it's just the small Linux and BSD community, then it's a publicity stunt and has no impact."
One Microsoft representative said this is not a case about people being opposed to the licence agreement.
"It seems like a technicality where some- one is twisting the language a little bit to come up with the idea that they can run back to the OEM with this," said the Microsoft representative. The representative did agree that the EULA contains the refund language, but said it is up to the OEMs how to handle the issue.
"We don't stop any OEM from shipping any operating system on their PCs," the representative said. "Nothing in our agreements prohibit the OEMs from doing this."
The representative noted that some OEMs used to offer OS/2 as an alternative, and Hitachi has licensed the BeOS.
The Web site tracks the case of an Australian Linux user who secured a $110 refund from Toshiba.
The Windows Refund Center site can be reached at http://www.thenoodle.com/refund.