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Microsoft's Software Philanthropy: The Goodwill Ploy

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the first-one's-free dept.

Microsoft 602

bethanie writes "The New York Times has printed a story concerning Microsoft's plans to 'significantly increase its donation of software to the nation's nonprofit organizations, to a level that may approach $1 billion annually in the next three to four years. ...But the increase has also drawn objections from developers of 'open source' programs (programs for which the source code is freely distributed). Those critics say they believe Microsoft is using a giveaway strategy to undercut the so-called free software movement in the potentially promising nonprofit market.' What do you think? Is it true philanthropy or just another tactic to assimilate everyone into the MS collective?"

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602 comments

Both (3, Insightful)

konichiwa (216809) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042883)

When you're one of the richest companies on the planet, "philanthropy" always has an aim.

More than both (4, Insightful)

That_Dan_Guy (589967) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043010)

More than Both. If they can get:

1. Tax credit
2. Press (preferably good press)
3. Good will of the charities.
4. Make themselves feel like good giving citizens
5. AND keep Open Source from gaining mindshare

They win all the way around, and without costing them a dime. I mean really. Charities can't afford 200 dollar Operating Systems and 3 or 400 dollar Office Suites, let alone the people who know how to maintain it.

Which brings a potential 6th benefit for MS:
What if it crashes and these charites don't know how to reactivate it? Uh-oh, they might end up having to go out and BUY a new copy! Meaning more profit for Microsoft.

Re:Both (2, Insightful)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043025)

it doesn't matter here at slashdot... MS can't do a thing without getting bashed. If they do something good, you'll say "well it's just an attempt to do this and that".

i wonder what'll happen if/when MS becomes open source. /. will say 'oh, it's another attempt to monopolize the industry"

Yeah KNow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042884)

Somebody gotta make the posting that would be first

Since you asked... assimilation! (0)

bigbadwlf (304883) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042886)

What do you think? Is it true philanthropy or just another tactic to assimilate everyone into the MS collective?

Duh, I read /.

horse cock (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042887)

horse cock

In other words.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042894)

"What do you think? Is it true philanthropy or just another tactic to assimilate everyone into the MS collective?"
  • What do you think ... is it a newsworthy slashdot story, or is it just another opportunity for the Slashdot community to bash their favorite whipping child.

Re:In other words.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042910)


that would be "whipping boy"

Re:In other words.... (2, Funny)

curious.corn (167387) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042946)

Or yet another cheerleader comment opportunity to favourably impress the MS job interviewer? GAWD, the astroturfing /. is getting from Redmond is unbelievable!

Re:In other words.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042988)

Jeez, getting a little uptight now are we? It's called a fucking opinion, deal with it, hoser.

Gates Foundation - Charity or Tatic? (5, Informative)

Michael's a Jerk! (668185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042895)

A good read is here [dslreports.com]

First Post! (1, Flamebait)

!Squalus (258239) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042896)

Unbelievable. Yes it is a ploy to gather interest in the non-profit camp and to keep OSS and GNU/Linux out. It is only that though, for you still have to have maintenance and for that - you will pay eventually. Especially when it comes time to get support.

If it wasn't MS, anybody would call it transparent. The fact that it is MS, someone will say they are doing it from their *good intentions*. ;P

Wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042897)

Those critics say they believe Microsoft is using a giveaway strategy to undercut the so-called free software movement in the potentially promising nonprofit market

Where do I start with this one? Undercut the free software market??? WTF.

Re:Wow (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042954)

Of course it is an undercut. Since there is no price involved, the only thing to compare is quality... There's where your undercut lies.

of course it's tactics (1)

Tancred (3904) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042899)

Microsoft didn't make it where they are by playing fair. They use their monopoly position to their advantage by all legal means, and then some.

Re:of course it's tactics (2, Interesting)

bagsc (254194) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042933)

Exploiting monopoly is by its nature, illegal. If it could be demonstrated that their pricing is designed to undercut the competition, thats abuse of monopoly power. Microsoft is trying to exploit the LegalCode(tm) bug that a gift can't be selling, and therefore isn't subject to those legal standards. It's just more envelope pushing, and legality is for the courts to decide.

Re:of course it's tactics (4, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043020)

I believe microsoft has sufficiently demonstrated to the people that it now has the political prowess to thwart any legal challenge to how it uses its monopoly. What was it the Bush administration was saying after the newly manned justice department quickly settled the suit? Something like they didn't see why the government was bringing microsoft to trial in the first place? I'm sure somebody has the article stashed away somewhere.

After being found guilty of illegally using their monopoly, they were told to pay a penalty that is less than 10% of what they made breaking the law. If the penalty for stealing $100 is paying a $10 fine, why on earth would you stop stealing $100?

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042900)

Read the subject :)

Rather like dealing drugs (4, Insightful)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042902)

"The first one's free"

Re:Rather like dealing drugs (5, Insightful)

nigels (264332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042934)

Yes, something like:

"We'll encrypt all your organisational data
into MS-specifc file formats... for free.."

Once the hapless nonprofit is hooked,
start charging market rates...

Re:Rather like dealing drugs (1)

spurious cowherd (104353) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043036)

mod parent up!

there is more truth in the elegent simplicity of this comment then that of all the talking heads put together

Once upon a time in a park... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042904)

...I asked a geek "Do you have a girlfriend?". He responded with a very puzzled look. "A girlfriend?," he mused, "Who is the developer?". I chuckled and told him this was not an open source project. He then became slightly angry and told me "Are you trying to insult me? Only the best geeks use open source only!". I reassured him I was well aware of his integrity as a geek (white skin, clumsy, pants that are too short, lack of daily shower, etc), but a girlfriend is a female who to a male (most oftenly a male) has an intimate friendship. He gave me a very confused look. "I have never heard of such a thing.. this.. g-g-irlfriend?" He asked me, sounding very baffled. "I have heard of friends before, those pets other people have. But what is this thing you say.. Grill?". "Girl," I corrected. Then I asked him to sit down on a bench nearby so I could explain it too him, the poor, helpless thing. I told him that for human beings to reproduce, sexual intercourse must occur between a male and a female. "Perhaps you hear the trolls mention a thing called "pussy" on slashdot?". The geek burst into laughter, "Haha, you have been browsing at -1 lately, haven't you? You know that is just troll talk. Those silly trolls never have anything intelligent to say." My face turned serious. "My dear geek, are you not aware of the female population amongst you? Do you not stare in the street and want to hump a post when you pass by a hot, slim, gorgeous looking chick with a firm bust and well sculpted ass?". The geek immediately began to appear as if we was having a nervous breakdown. His glasses began to fog up and he took them off to wipe them with this linux embroidered shirt, "I think I know what you are talking about. Those things are icky. They have cooties. Get away from me!" I felt offended. "Nonsense, I pleaded! Pussy is a beautiful thing. A sacred thing." The geek would not listen and he began to cry. "STOP IT!! You are EVIL!!" He then skipped off. I walked back to my house quite sad. Why don't they listen to me I asked myself? When I got home my girlfriend opened the door. She was wearing short-shorts and a sports bra. She had been doing the thigh master for the past 30 minutes and was sweating. I could see her dark nipples underneath her slightly damp bra. Oh god I could fuck her to the moon and back. I could smell her horniness the second I took my shoes off. I chased her, both of us laughing, to our bedroom [THE FOLLOWING has been censored for the well-being of Geeks].... Six hours later, finally satisfied a little, I sat up and noticed that same Geek hiding in the trees. He had been watching us the entire time. I swear his penis had to have been the size of a fucking horse cock (not bad for a geek, i might add), and he appeared as if he had gone into a state of shock. I could see cum stains forming near the bulge of his pant zipper. I thought to myself. There is one geek, finally brought into the real world.

Re:Once upon a time in a park... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042978)

so he jumped through the window and gave you the nicest quarter of an hour you ever had while your baffled girlfriend listened to you scream.

What do I think? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042905)

What do I think? I think it's a slow news day, that's what I think. What do you think?

Re:What do I think? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042930)

Wait a minute. I posted "slwo day" on the Geforce article and gotta mod'd as a troll.

What makes you special?

Re:What do I think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043023)

What do I think? I think you are a cock sucker

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042911)

fp biatz

Explain to me again... (3, Insightful)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042912)

...how "free" undercuts "free"?

When both prices are nil, what's left to compare but individual merit and the availability of technical support?

Re:Explain to me again... (5, Insightful)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042952)

Open source alternatives are not necessarily free.

A price could still be charged for the software (albiet less than microsoft) and the company could offer enhanced support at an added cost. Microsoft giving away its software means it is cheaper than even the open source alternatives and if it is available, orginizations may not even begin to research alternatives.

Its not free vs free, its free(but used to be expensive) vs free (in concept, but lower in cost), that is why microsoft would be undercutting the open source alternatives

Re:Explain to me again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043024)

Hey, man... Ebehyone knows you can't charge f' Open Suhce Soffware. Duh, you sip charge f' what it costs you t' distriboot 'n make de media. Say your time is word fiffy bucks an hour, 'n it takes you two hours of your time t' make each indibidual media t' distriboot. Webuhll, in dat case, uh uh uh, it wudd cost a hundrid bucks t' distriboot the, ERRRR, soffware.

It's like dose diggs you can get on TB f' free, uh uh uh, but dey rape you on the, ERRRR, shippigg 'n handligg, on you can stick it in your magic replicator, duplicate it, uh, 'n gibe it t' your friends. /moron

Re:Explain to me again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042962)

In this case, perhaps free undercuts Free..

Free as in speech and beer.

Deductions, baby! (4, Insightful)

vegetablespork (575101) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042913)

Can MS donate a copy of Windows, that cost marginally a few cents to produce, and take a deduction against its corporate income for the full retail value?

Of course, if the scuttlebutt is that MS uses other loopholes to dodge all its taxes are true, then it's a moot point.

Re:Deductions, baby! (3, Insightful)

mijok (603178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043021)

Simple answer from an MBA student: No.
What you pay taxes for is: revenue - all costs
And retail value isn't a cost at all (the only thing that is, is the cost of the physical media). To "optimize" your taxation (ie. so that your shareholders's wealth after taxes grows as much as possible) you pay suitable amounts of dividends (cost of capital you know...) before taxes. What else you're allowed to deduct in taxation varies in different countries - iirc. at least in some states in the US you're allowed to deduct the interest rate on loans (I'm European but have read quite a few American books on finance too).

Re:Deductions, baby! (1)

evil9000 (72113) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043049)

Technically what microsoft is giving them isnt even a cd. They are giving a sticker that costs 2c per sheet of 100 to be stuck on all the computers.

They could even go to the extent of giving a single letter (3c?) saying that the organisation now has 1000 licences for winxp.

Who knows, but when you have the ability to print money, then you can give away as much as you like.

Shut the fuck up. (0, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042914)

Nobody is forcing people to use MS. Now MS is just playing level. They give their shit out [or at extreme cut] it means OSS has to be *that much better* to win over users.

Is that not competition?

Tom

Re:Shut the fuck up. (1)

PukkaStoryTeller (661614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042956)

Nobody is forcing people to use MS?! What the hell!

Re:Shut the fuck up. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042996)

Well, actually, they are a convicted monopolist.

Re:Shut the fuck up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043041)

That's competition, but waht isn't is Microsoft's control of the market, and proprietary protocols that make it illegal and impossible for others to compete fairly against them.

Yes, that is not competition (2, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043059)

Unless of course, you're a drug dealer....or BG.

Playing level...that's rich. Can't you 2D MS apologists be more subtle when when you shovel it? Try again....this sort of comedy is good for a laugh or two or three or....

Billy Boy (0)

stalinvlad (591479) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042915)

Yeah whats the idea of sucking money out of some people (e.g Exxon) and then squirting it back (e.g. WHO)

Anyone would think he had a Christian upbringing

How do you slashdotters feel about the metaphysical?

Or must you judge a man (by his OS I guess)

I'm sure to be modded down... (3, Insightful)

sweeney37 (325921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042916)

But to be honest if Microsoft didn't give away the money, people would be crying and moaning about that.

As much as we all hate the evil empire, for them it's damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

Look at it this way, the money is going to worthwhile causes, be happy it's doing someone other than a rich investor, or evil Bill himself, some good.

Mike

Re:I'm sure to be modded down... (1)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042968)

"ut to be honest if Microsoft didn't give away the money, people would be crying and moaning about that."

Aheem!

The story is not about M$ giving away money, it's about M$ giving away software. The tax deduction that M$ gets is quite a bit greater that the cost to M$, so M$ (as usual) makes out like bandits. If M$ had been giving away cash it would be a different story.

Re:I'm sure to be modded down... (2, Insightful)

sweeney37 (325921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043014)

just to be upfront, I'm going to say the same thing twice.

but it's a billion dollars that those companies didn't have to spend to buy software. therefore they are able to use the money for more urgent and important things.

and before anyone uses the excuse, "but they could of had it free all along", the learning curve (and training) between open source OSes and MS OSes is obviously night and day.

why retrain someone to use new software, when they may already be familiar with the software they have at home.

Mike

Re:I'm sure to be modded down... (1)

mobets (101759) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042984)

But there isn't any money going to worthwile causes. How much do you think it costs microsoft to ship a few CD's and set up a site license or something?

I think the point is simple.. (5, Insightful)

Phizzy (56929) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042917)

They're going after markets that don't have much money in the first place. They realize internally, though would never admit, that giving away software to people who wouldn't buy it otherwise doesn't cost them money. Externally, they'll say how they're doing such good things, and say how "We gave away a billion dollars in software last year.", but that wasn't a billion dollars that they could have had otherwise.

This is basically the same as the RIAA giving me a bunch of MP3 files of music I wouldn't have bought anyhow and claiming they gave me a thousand dollars of music.

Or like me saying I have a baseball card that's worth $100,000. It's only worth that if someone will buy it. If no one will buy it, then it's a piece of cardboard with a picture on it.

The moral of the story is that they're giving away something that costs them nothing to a market group that wouldn't have bought their stuff otherwise, and keeping Free software out.

Re:I think the point is simple.. (1)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042977)

The moral of the story is that they're giving away something that costs them nothing to a market group that wouldn't have bought their stuff otherwise, and keeping Free software out.

How would they be doing that, unless they threw in a condition that forbade that group to use Free Software? I see nothing like that mentioned in the NY Times story.

Re:I think the point is simple.. (0)

sweeney37 (325921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043001)

but it's a billion dollars that those companies didn't have to spend to buy software. therefore they are able to use the money for more urgent and important things.

and before anyone uses the excuse, "but they could of had it free all along", the learning curve (and training) between open source OSes and MS OSes is obviously night and day.

why retrain someone to use new software, when they may already be familiar with the software they have at home.

Mike

Re:I think the point is simple.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043054)

Perhaps you would like to bring your brain along, instead of using the same old BS?

You should make a new account called "Say that again".

Ass.

In the end... (1)

je56 (612762) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042921)

Yes, this may be another dastardly Microsoft ploy to gain more converts, but lets not forget the end result: these non-profit organizations get software. We can't complain too much about that, can we? Maybe fight fire with fire -- it can't be too hard, seeing as "our" software is just as free as Microsoft's when they donate?

They aren't giving anything away (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042923)

If the organizations they are giving the software to are allowed under license to resell them, then I'd have to say I'm impressed with Microsoft's generosity. Otherwise... yeah, it's probably just a ploy as the value of anything decreases with its diminishing level of scarcity.

Since there is no such thing as scarcity of Microsoft software, the value is obviously low. Other factors acting on the value of Microsoft software, of course, is demand... the problem is people are demanding software fixes and aren't getting them.

Come on! (1)

kaamos (647337) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042925)

This is pure rethoric

Is it true philanthropy or just another tactic to assimilate everyone into the MS collective?

We do not really need sarcasm in this debate. We all know that microsoft is there to make some $, like everyone out there with a job. Hell, we are technos arn't we? This, however, is simmilar to the project that apple spearheaded in maine, where every schoolkid has an iBook, isn't it? While they weren't free, they were cheap, but they had a Mac OS, just the same as they will have a Windows. Remember that having Windows does not force someone to buy microsoft, isn't it?

Re:Come on! (0)

stalinvlad (591479) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042949)

Geez you said all that without:-

BSD is dead

Pat yourself on the back

Re:Come on! (1)

kaamos (647337) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043016)

My backup mail server runs FreeBSD, what about that?

Re:Come on! (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042980)

Apple didn't 'spearhead' the Maine laptop initiative... Gov. Angus King was partially responsible for that.

Apple simply won-out on the deal by offering a better package at a competitive price... Though I wonder what the Jaguar upgrades for any/all of the iBooks cost Maine last year...

Re:Come on! (1)

kaamos (647337) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042998)

Oh, txs, didn't catch that. However, that is a nice point ;-)

Re:Come on! (2, Insightful)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043060)

"out to make money" Nono - Microsoft is out to try to create a condition whereby anyone who wants to use a computer in the modern world HAS to use MS software to do so, and eventually, HAS to pay a recurring fee to MS for the privilege of doing so.

If MS, instead of giving "a billion dollars" of MS software to these nonprofits, gave them an actual billion dollars (string-free), and let them do with it what they want (which might include spending it on MS software, or might include buying a billion dollars worth of hardware, and running free software on it), then Id be impressed.

And yes, getting users 'used' to using MS software does tend to make it hard for them to choose anything else. Like someone else mentioned, the comparison to drug dealers giving out 'free samples' is apt.

That makes no sense. (3, Insightful)

I Am The Owl (531076) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042931)

"Those critics say they believe Microsoft is using a giveaway strategy to undercut the so-called free software movement in the potentially promising nonprofit market."

Did somebody forget to proofread this article before posting? That makes no sense - how in the fuck can you undercut a free product? How is such a market "promising" if no sales are made? How is there even what could be called a "market" for something that is free? Doesn't one have to buy or sell in a market?

I think the Free Software people are just jealous because Microsoft, too, figured out that giving away their software for free is a good idea. God, it's like you people want to see non-profits be deprived of choices or special benefits in the market. Truly the mark of a zealot - you people were probably the same people who wanted to see Skylarov kept in prison so he could be the test case for your DMCA challange.

Re:That makes no sense. (2, Insightful)

iCoach (658588) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043000)

I think the point that the author is trying to make is that Microsoft isn't trying to win OS market share in this move, instead they are looking to build a larger user base for other product (read: MS Office et al.)
I personally don't see how them giving it away for free is beneficial in any other way. However, as it is being given for free, the issue becomes how does an already free OS compete with the FUD that Microsoft offers when price is no longer a debate? Security comes to mind, but security has always lost out to a combination of usability (read: familiraity) and marketing power.

Re: That makes no sense. (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043048)


> Did somebody forget to proofread this article before posting? That makes no sense - how in the fuck can you undercut a free product?

The point is that Microsoft can only maintain its monopoly in the for-pay sector if it maintains the illusion that it's the standard. This "offer" is exactly like the 90% discount for Munich: if word ever gets out that the free stuff is good enough for organizations, Microsoft is fuxored.

They aren't any more worried about loss of revenue in this market than they are about loss of revenues from Munich. They're worried about a paradigm shift in the way the world acquires its software.

Re:That makes no sense. (1)

hyphz (179185) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043064)

Actually, there is something in the claim that they're undercutting a free product: MS are losing money when they give software away (because they could have sold it to someone else for money), whereas OSS aren't (because they wouldn't have charged anyone else any money). So the balance is negative for MS, but zero for OSS - ie, undercut.

and get themselves another nice tax cut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042935)

Unless they are going to take tax break they get as a result of the donation and give that to charity as well this does seem like simply a way to decrease the influence of open source.

Free is not enough! (0, Flamebait)

cenonce (597067) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042937)

Free!?! Actually, they'd have to pay me to use Windows!

Hey... perhaps I should reply to that "Bill Gates Gives Away Money" spam that comes into my inbox every 2 or 3 months...

Re:Free is not enough! (0)

stalinvlad (591479) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042965)

Just for the record

And in case you ain't noticed!

I use Windows

I LIKE WINDOWS

Linux sucks

BSD better not die!

or we are all in trouble!!!!

The three w's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042939)

It helps them undercut other software and they get to write off a billion dollars a year against their income and it costs them almost nothing. A win-win-win situation.

Haven't Apple, Cali,etc already fought this fight? (1, Informative)

jeeves99 (187755) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042941)

This was one of the major holdups in the antitrust settlement. MS wanted to inundate the schools with free software vouchers and its competitors cried foul and demanded that the vouchers be replaced with straight-out cash grants. A similar tale has been repeated in europe as well.

The problem is that until there is a legal ruling on whether software-gifts are anticompetitive, MS will continue to do this. However, when you start to regulate software gifts, you risk classifying other similar acts as anticompetitive. Is it OK for apple to give free software? What about open source software? Its not long until the whole house of cards falls down.

I think that... (1)

Vadim Makarov (529622) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042945)

Well, they have the right to offer their software for free.

And each consumer has the right to decide if it's a ploy or a good offer.

Does Seeding Work? (4, Insightful)

Davak (526912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042950)

I have always wondered if seeding an OS out in the world really helps business all that much. I agree that it makes common sense; however, I have never seen the proof.

For example, Apple flooded the school systems 15 years ago with pretty good little systems. They were used to teach typing, accounting, and basic computer skills... What did all that effort earn Apple?

Not much in my opinion. Maybe it always works... maybe the Apple episode is the exception.

Risking Karma here... I am predominately a windows user; however, I cheer for linux as much as humanly possible. I think the competition is wonderful for the consumer and the market.

Davak

Hmm. Saw something like this in _Free for All_ (2, Insightful)

westfirst (222247) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042953)


Chapter 12 of Free for All [wayner.org] analyzes the differences between Microsoft's version of charity and the open source's version. It sort of anticipated this debate by a few years and it also asks the very interesting question about tax deductions. Just how much did M$ write off for these deductions? The full cost of the software? The list price? Or just the amortized cost of development? Or perhaps the most honorable, nothing at all. That's how much the FSF takes off their taxes.

Whats a billion worth (1)

HybridTheory (551364) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042958)

What does it cost Microsoft to supply a billion dollars of Windows and Office at retail prices?

Next to nothing. Their margin is 84%, so we are looking at $160 million max. And they can easily make it a lot less than that by making it pre-installed through hardware vendors, so no CD's etc are required. It's just the license.

And it's not neccessarily a lost license either. Most non-profit orgs have better things to do withg their $$$ than give to M$.

And let me guess... (1)

diakka (2281) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042963)

The terms of the EULA will state that the license is non-transferable. You'd have to be a complete moron to think this has anything to do with philanthropy.

I think... (1)

oaf357 (661305) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042966)

I think it's 75% assimilation and 25% tax break. $1,000,000,000 off MS taxes would be VERY, VERY nice. Plus, more customers stuck with buying MS software equals boo-koo cha-ching for the Redmond Robots.

Tax writeoff. (4, Insightful)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042967)

While at some level it is possible that Microsoft will be donating "value" to the organizations involved, the value has nothing to do with the actual cost of the software.

As far as the packaged software is concerned, a copy of Windows (any version) Office (any version) or any other piece of software Microsoft donates to charity, the cost is the raw material involved in the package, and the cost of duplication for the content. Also by donating copies of software packages to charity, they bring down the total cost of production per unit.

The 1 Billion dollar value, per year, is far more likely to be related to the MSRP price Microsoft puts on the product, than on the material cost.

While I am sure that a part of this has to do with Microsoft doing just about anything in it's power to undercut it's competition, (which does include Open Source Software these days) it is also potentially valuable to them in that so far the company has been able to escape taxes in a number of ways. This provides another way for them to write off proffits that they would otherwise have to claim when it came time to file State and Federal taxes.

Perhaps of more concern is the fact that by using these applications, charities are going to be locking themselves into a proprietary set of file formats that they may not later be able to extract information from without Microsoft's blessings.

Then again, that's just my opinion. I have been wrong before, it will probably happen again.

-Rusty

Its all for TAXES!!! (2, Informative)

Admiral Llama (2826) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042971)

Donations are tax deductable. Theoretically, if they donate enough, they'll eventually wipe out all their taxable income.

"Sure Mr. Elementary School Principal, every one of your students needs XP Super Advanced Enterpri$e on their desktops. Let me just fire up the printing presses!"

How can software donation be measured in $ ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042972)

Me start my own Linux distribution, charge $1 billion per CD, "donate" CDs to nonprofit organizations. So me donate several billions and beat Microsoft on top of philanthropic ladder.

piracy vs. donations .. (3, Interesting)

jest3r (458429) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042979)

lets face it .. the vast majority of these organizations are probably using pirated copies of office .. or whatever else they could not afford .. so if faced with the choice piracy vs. donations i think donations is a pretty good option.

the question we should be asking is what is making linux so inacessable to all of the masses that are running a pirated copy of winxp and office xp on their build your own box ...

Tax deduction (2, Insightful)

bloosqr (33593) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042982)

The part that worries me about this is the tax deduction they get from doing this. My understanding of this is that traditionally (or otherwise) companies get the full value tax deducted off of their expenses. That is the "1 Billion $" of virtual licenses "given" away to people who would otherwise not buy your software provides a huge tax writeoff. As software isn't made of "tangible assets" in the same way that hardware is a tangible asset, this would be an easy scam for many software companies to pull to avoid paying any taxes. (Though MS doesn't pay any tax for other reasons)

Fortune 500 Philanthropy is not genuine (0)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042983)

If philanthropy was genuine, these companies would have been doing it from day one.

On the one hand, Microsloth is helping SCO in the frivilous lawsuit to scare business away from Linux, and on the other hand they are undercutting Linux in the non-profit sector. Sounds like they have everything tied up.

We can only hope they damage their company to such an extent that it is irrepairable. Of course, the perpetrators will have thier golden parachutes - or will keep the company by laying off thousands of workers.

It is disgusting.

It is all a big game, until someone gets their eye poked out...

True Philanthropy? (1, Funny)

jkauzlar (596349) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042986)

Of course its true philanthropy. I can picture Gates and Ballmer reading the software news, misty-eyed, about school-children being forced to write homework assignments in EMACS, to do their math in octave, navigating an archaic command-line system, disoriented and trembling in their confusion, while the rival school-kids, using Windows, with their talking paper-clips to help them, are already finished with their schoolwork and playing polo out in the schoolyard with their chums.

Gates and Ballmer cannot but help digging into their pocketbooks at the sight of this. How grateful we should all be.

And then there's those third-world nations, fumbling around with chmod and tr while half their country is dying of AIDS...

Yes, we are lucky that in today's world a multi-billion dollar company can be spare so much without self-interest. :)

Re:True Philanthropy? (1)

Max Coffee (559629) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043053)

And then there's those third-world nations, fumbling around with chmod and tr while half their country is dying of AIDS...

Wow, the way you're throwing the gauntlet down, it's obvious that you've personally contributed more money to public health in the third world than Bill Gates has. Impressive. Keep it up. Every little $1 billion helps.

Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6042989)

It only makes sense. MS wants everyone to use their software, even if they have to give it away. Then, when the competetion is dead, they can start charging through the nose.

Also, it makes the free software junkies look silly when they rant about how MS is evil. Afterall, to everyone who reads the paper, they're not evil, rather bearers of free software.

What's the catch? (2, Interesting)

thirdrock (460992) | more than 11 years ago | (#6042992)

What is Microsoft's definition of 'give away'?
Do they mean -
- A charity/NPO can obtain a master CD which they can install on as many PC's as they like, forever more?
- A charity/NPO will be able to download the latest updates, the latest operating system and the latest features at no cost into the forseeable future (say 100 years)?
- A charity/NPO will be granted total exemption from licence tracking and auditing into the forseeable future?

No? Perhaps they mean.

- We will give away our software and do whatever else is necessary, by whatever means, to destroy all current and future competition in the desktop operating system market, and THEN when our monopoly is returned and assured, we will review those charity/NPO software licences and collect our rightful due?

Even free is a bad deal when someone can enforce a EULA at some future date. Under the EULA, Microsoft (and many other software companies) are not selling a product they are granting a licence. A product, once purchased, becomes the property of the purchaser, whereas a licence can be revoked.

this is good for the nonprofits (1)

target (97212) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043003)

Technology expenses are really high for nonprofits. They need computers and computer systems to do their jobs, but it costs them a fortune in money, time, and effort to build and keep up the systems. They spend generally 1-2% of their money on tech systems, as compared to 6% in the private sector.

This has a couple of effects. The most obvious is that that's money that could be going towards their goals or causes. Money that is in some sense wasted, if there's a way to get technology without having to pay for it.

A second effect is that they are generally using very old and outdated equipment. Why? Because they modernized to a computer system in the 90s, and aren't willing to spend the money to do it again now. This means that as technology improves in ways that would be useful for them, they are in general lagging behind, unable to aquire or use it.

So whatever your feelings for Microsoft, it's clear that this sort of donation is really good for nonprofits. And if you think that nonprofits in general are good for society (which I certainly do), then it's clear that Microsoft is doing something good for society.

It may, of course, benefit them as well. But there's no harm in helping yourself while you help others, is there?

- target

prolly both - but i'll bite (3, Interesting)

jpellino (202698) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043007)

i need to keep 2 dozen PCs at school up to date - they're all donations, they have whatever OS the giver had, I need them all to be on a par so kids can go from one to another without a brain freeze, and though a part of me wishes they'd play fair on a lot of other things, this seems like it's more needed than evil.

apple has been known to give the OS at a significant discount to teachers, i'm surprised they made a stink.

plus how long would i be working there if i told the boss 'we can get this for free, but on principle i'll just run down to staples and pick up 24 of them at the sell thru price...'

The first one is... (1)

shatfield (199969) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043011)

free... it's the 2nd one (upgrades, in this case) that will really cost ya...

nonprofit are in serious bind (4, Interesting)

lingqi (577227) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043017)

I worked for a non-profit organization once.

For an organization of about 100 (maybe more) people, there was exactly ONE IT admin, plus one intern like myself.

Sad thing is, though, neither MS nor OSS, to me, provides the best solution - because non-profits are usually so cash strapped - which turns to be people-strapped, time-strapped, etc.

I remember back then we tried to set up a whole slew of services (this was before MS BackDoor erm BackOffice) came out - and tried to put almost the entire line of MS servers onto one NT4 machine. needless to say, the thing would crap out just sitting there idle. (and these were donated software. sorry to say but MS has been donating to non-profits for a loooong time, for good or bad)

With that kind of instability (and we can't afford shiny new dells, so we get all the systems either custom build very cheaply, or get donated used ones), MS servers won't do. Maybe now it's better, but with the kind of system requirements, I seriously doubt we can run XP / 2k Servers.

However, i don't really think linux would really do either - because user-support is the rest of the spent time when the IT group (the 1.5 person - one admin and the part-time intern) isn't fiddling with junk. And I just can't see any possibility in training 75 year old gradma's (seriously - some of them really were!) to do any new computing technology within any kind of resonable timeframe. I am sorry to say, guys, KDE and GNOME is not the easiest to figure out, and certainly not the easiest to teach. The UI design does not follow a strict standards across OSS software (okay, to me anyway), so that causes a lot of problems.

I personally think that if Apple gave us a huge slew of over-stocked iMacs, we'd been all set. I think macs tend to last a lot longer than PCs (average life span, anyway - maybe it's due to the higher per-unit cost?), but doesn't degrade into pitifulness nearly as fast; even right now the first-gen iMacs, I think, are still usable. And yes, Macs are more intuitive UI-wise.

But that never happened, so when I left, the lone IT admin was still holding back the fire, in the most endless, swamped way...

Okay, I am sure that was related somehow, though not sure HOW exactly.

Jesus Christ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043018)

Would you motherfuckers find something new to talk about already? I can't believe with all the hundreds of tech related stories out there, you guys choose to post about this drivel.

Ya'll a buncha paranoid fruitcakes.

Strictly a tactic...and not at all philanthropic (2, Interesting)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043019)

And when BG does it, it's not philanthropic....not by a long shot. It is self-serving...and not in a karmic kind of way, either.

Philanthropy: The practice of helping people in need. Nothing there about it being a business practice!

When there are strings attached (and w/MS there are always strings), it's called 'manipulation'. Some may recall when one of the suggested penalties after MS was convicted, was for them to give away software? Hardly a penalty, and everyone knew that, including MS.

Remember, investing in MS is risking having your own resources used against you.

not even close to free (5, Insightful)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043022)

They'll be forced into an upgrade cycle. They'll be forced to buy all the little extras it takes to bring MS systems up to level with other systems. And so on. A big donation looks nice and free to the clueless, but once you get into what else you need to actually get work done, the price of the OS and basic software (heck, even just Office) isn't even close to your total cost.

*shakes head* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043034)

Those critics say they believe Microsoft is using a giveaway strategy to undercut the so-called free software movement in the potentially promising nonprofit market.

Isn't this the argument OSS supporters have be using for years? It's free, it's free, it's free!

Perhaps Microsoft has realized the OS is a commodity. They can gain revenue from Office, other applications or at least keep their name out their until they create what they consider to be the next big thing.

Donation? (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043037)

Microsoft is the beneficiary of this. The software will be given away, and then MS will take a tax deduction (they MUST take it, or face a shareholder action).

It doesn't cost much to "make" the software, so MS will be laughing to the bank. Which is a good thing (speaking as a MS shareholder).

As far as philanthropy goes... it's really nothing. I have to admire Open Source developers, who give away time. And don't get a tax break for it. I WISH I could get tax back for time contributions to worthy projects. But this won't be recognized.

Maybe an OSS company should put a high price on a distribution, and then give it away for the tax benefit. Then, distribute the proceeds to the OSS developers.

Ratboy.

just like giving away non-lethal cigarettes (2, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043043)

...eventually you pay the price. Free software is always free, but microsoft software is only free when they say it is, and never thereafter. I doubt that they are giving away their tech support, for example. It's like giving away 1,000 free tickets to Disneyland, but you still charge for everything once inside.

Open Source Philanthropy (2, Insightful)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043045)

OSS gives away billions of dollars worth of software every day! They give it to schools, universities, small businesses, large corps, non-profits, people (like me), governments, etc. Most of this is commercial grade software such as; gcc, Linux, Apache, etc. Now that is Philanthropy!

Sigh ... (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043046)

assimilate everyone into the MS collective ?

You post your story on Slashdot, so why do you have to ask ?

Yes, everybody knows Microsoft is evil, wants to take over the world, and that Bill Gates wants to stick fireants in Linus' and RMS' underwears.

Yes, everybody hates Microsoft, that Windows users are all stupid, that Linuxers have discovered the Virtuous Path.

Yes we know that Microsoft pulls the SCO puppet strings, that they make evil deals with the MPAA and RIAA.

Yes, we know all that by now, Slashdot crew. Can we move along now ? why do we have to read the same Microsoft articles with world-domination overtones over and over again ?

Netgraft Corp responds to Microsoft (2, Funny)

defile (1059) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043047)

NEW YORK, Monday -- Responding to Microsoft's announcement to donate $1 Billion in software to non-profits, Netgraft Corp [netgraft.com] aims to one up Microsoft by announcing a $20 TRILLION software giveaway.

Microsoft's move has been criticised by many in the free software community as an attempt to stifle [free software] adoption. "They're using their influence and might to suppress what is clearly better software. Well, as a company that earns its bread and butter promoting free software, we felt it would only be right to give our free software away as well", said Michael Bacarella, the company's founder and Chief Technology Officer.

Effective immediately, the company will make its award winning TCP connection forwarder, tcpfwd, which normally retails for $5,000,000 per copy, freely available from its web site at http://netgraft.com/tcpfwd.c under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

"No one has ever attempted this before", he continues, "but my hope is that in doing so, we can show the world that free software can beat proprietary software vendors, no matter what stunts they try to pull."

Netgraft Corp will end the giveaway program for tcpfwd once it surpasses 4,000,000 downloads, which would retail for $50 trillion.

"And it's not just for non-profits. tcpfwd is available to all, for-profits, students, and so on. Share and enjoy." concludes Mr. Bacarella.

Microsoft did not immediately return comment requests.

Discrimination, attempt to undercut OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043056)

It is not right that MS has one price for some and a different price for others. It's discrimination.

In addition, this approach undercuts OSS. If you gi ve away MS products to schools, non-profits, etc. these people will use MS stuff rather than adopt OSS. This means there will be less testing, feedback, development and deployment of OSS.

what's wrong with MS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043061)

i'm ignorant, stupid, lame, and uninformed. but what's wrong with Microsoft? they run a business, people buy their products, and they got rich. sure they can bully the small guy, but nobody can say they didn't earn the position their in. so, if they want to muscle out the small guy and monopolize the market, who cares? as long as consumer prices stay reasonable (reasonable - gov defined) what's the problem?

I think it is legit. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043062)

I think Microsoft is practicing proper philanthropy. Well like any organization they will not be donating to any not for profit that they are oposed to. While without the microsoft donation probably a small portion would use linux. But it is probably more of the case that they would go without computers or just use older version of windows, pirate, or find a way to buy the MS products. Linux is still a small player against Microsoft, and it is still easy for them to get a lot of buisness even with Linux as a competition. Plus there is nothing that stop NFP organization from switching to linux in the future, espectly if MS stop donating to them.

How? (1)

birdman666 (144812) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043065)

It's going to be quite difficult to legally keep some one from giving to charity, no matter how hellbent on world domination they may appear to be.

If we're talking about 1 billion in total cost... (1)

TyrranzzX (617713) | more than 11 years ago | (#6043067)

of the boxes, cd's etc...

wOOO, I can just see the landfills now!!!

1,000,000,000\$5 a box = 200,000,000 boxes at say, .75 cubic feet = 200,000,000 * .75 = 150,000,000 cubic feet of waste. Thats 28409.09 cubic miles of waste.

Seriously though, they are giving away software so they can get deductions and even if not, they also get money for the support they will be selling. And lord only knows what they are asking these npc's to sign.

Just say no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6043070)

Like crack, MS freebies seem harmless in the beginning, but before long you think the default XP theme is a stylistic achievement and you want to redecorate your house using the palette from the Slashdot games section.

Just say no!
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