Army to Bill Gates: cut out the freebies immediately

“Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office productivity software to government employees, but CNET News.com has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics policies,” Ina Fried reports for CNET News.com.

“Since the launch of Office 2003 last year, Microsoft has given out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software, which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers. The giveaway was expanded to government workers this year, but ethics offices at the Department of the Interior and Department of Defense have said the offers constitute unauthorized gifts and must be returned,” Fried reports. “The Department of the Army went a step further, calling on Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to stop sending the software to Army personnel.”

“‘We ask that you cease immediately the mailing of free software, and other types of gifts, to the Department of the Army personnel,’ Deputy General Counsel Matt Reres said in a Feb. 19 letter seen by CNET News.com. ‘Your offer of free software places our employees and soldiers in jeopardy of unknowingly committing a violation of the ethics rules and regulations to which they have taken an oath to uphold.’ The issue comes up as many governments are looking at open-source alternatives for Office and the Windows operating system. The British government has been evaluating a switch to the Linux OS, while open-source software is also being eyed in Korea, China, India and even at some local agencies in the United States,” Fried reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: First one’s free. Guess what happens next? What other types of “businesses” operate like this?

26 Comments

  1. I have visions of MS execs standing in warehouses stuffed full of unsold copies of Office. Everyone who is going to buy it already has a copy, nobody is upgrading, so they might as well give them away.

  2. This is a longstanding policy of the DoD and the component service branches. I should know, having spent 8 years on active duty with the US Army. When sales or technical reps would come they would follow the normal “civilian” practice of bringing food or whatever. We had to refuse. This is as it should be.

  3. “I seem to remember everyone’s favourite fruit company giving a free copy of their OS to every teacher in the land. Isn’t Billy just copying Apple again?”

    The difference is that a lot of schools are happy to receive gifts. The army specifically says no gifts. I suspect Microsoft knew this but went ahead and flaunted army regulations anyway.

  4. “I seem to remember everyone’s favourite fruit company giving a free copy of their OS to every teacher in the land. Isn’t Billy just copying Apple again?”

    …Yes, but look at thier motives. Apple has always been a big education donor/proponent. They were offering OS X as if to say, I know you’re reluctant to switch to OS X (from 9, it’s not like they were giving out free macs). MS is far more insidious because they’re only doing this because they feel threatened. Do you honestly think they would have done that if they didn’t have some other agenda?

  5. Several years ago many foreign RAM suppliers were hit with huge fines and tarrifs for dumping RAM on the US market well below cost in an effort to drive US RAM makers out of the market. (It all but killed the US production of RAM.)

    How is this any different? Microsoft is doing this solely to keep people tied sot MS Office and the Windows OS. If the Department of Justice were to ever live up to its name it would do what it did all those years ago and get the courts to force MS to pay huge fines — plus MS would have to pay a “shipping and handling charge” to each agency to whom they have shipped the “free” software to cover the cost of shipping it all back to MS.

    Additionally, the IRS needs to look into this very, very closely. Is MS taking all this “free” software as a tax write off? Is it considered marketing? Is it considered a donation? Is it considered a bribe?

    ” ‘ I seem to remember everyone’s favourite fruit company giving a free copy of their OS to every teacher in the land. Isn’t Billy just copying Apple again?’

    “The difference is that a lot of schools are happy to receive gifts. The army specifically says no gifts. I suspect Microsoft knew this but went ahead and flaunted army regulations anyway.”

    No the issue is market dominance, market control and maintaining a monopoly illegally. If Microsoft has a monopoly of its Windows OS (with regart to which it was convicted of illegally maintaining that monopoly) then it most certainly has a monopoly with MS Office (easily 95% of the people using an office suite on the Windows OS use MS Office and easily 95% of the people using an office suite on Mac OS use MS Office, etc.). Dumping “free” copies of MS Office (almost certainly the Windows OS version) to employees of major organizations is clearly a tactic to maintain that monopoly. We all must remember having, and/or being, a monopoly is not illegal. Using your monopoly power to maintain that monopoly IS illegal.

    I doubt any clear thinking person (even a “free trade” thinking judge) would consider this tactic anything but a clear attempt by a monopoly holding company to use its monopolist power to maintain its monopoly. If the Department of Justice does not do anything about this then it very obviously is a puppet of Microsoft.

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