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Windows Refund Day update

jlterman First hand report for Foster City, CA (207 comments)

Microsoft headquarters in Silicon Valley is currently in Foster City, just a few miles north of the gleaming green towers of Oracle. They occupy the now infamous 9th floor of an office building in between the world headquarters for Visa.

I showed up around 10:30 AM on my own and found it very quiet with only signs pointing the way to the "Linux Event" (sic) (a nice piece of Microsoft spin). I found my way up to the top floor of the parking garage where the press was assembled listening to a Microsoft spokesman explaining how customers have plenty of choice in their OS and the popularity of Windows is only due to its high quality. At this point only me and a handful of other people had shown up for the demonstration and we quickly found ourselves being interviewed by the press. I talked to 3 reporters.

A little after noon the main contingent arrived to demand their refunds. Led by Eric Raymond (dressed as a Jedi Knight!), they marched through the parking garage up to the top floor in an orderly fashion. Several placards were carried ("I don't do Windows", "No Taxation without Open Source", "Pro-Choice"), and penguins were plentiful. I should emphasize that the BSD people had a strong presence at the demonstration.

For the next half-hour, there was much interviewing by the press and a debate between Eric Raymond and the sole Microsoft spokesman (as far as I know, he was the only Microsoft employee that anybody saw). Finally, several attempts were made to gain access to the Microsoft office to demand a refund.

After finding the parking garage entrance barred, we walked down to the courtyard of the building in an attempt to take the elevator. I had used that same elevator to get to the fourth floor to gain access to the top of the parking garage (an entrance later blocked). 7 people at a time, accompanied by the press, attempted to gain access to the ninth floor. The elevator was working, but was programmed not to stop at the ninth floor. After several attempts, eventually the police blocked the courtyard and at 1:45 PM we marched away (voluntarily) with not one refund handed out.

All in all, about a few hundred supporters of the Free/Open Source Community showed up with perhaps around thirty people actually demanding refunds. There were at least twenty members of the press, both print and media and I talked to reporters from AP, Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News. They struck me as skeptical of Microsoft and sympathetic, but I was not very clear on how much they understood the philosophy of the Free/Open Source Community. But they seemed very willing to let me try to explain it to them. Microsoft stuck to its party line of that you have to get your refund from your OEM or the store from where you purchased it.

I would call the event a success. There was plenty of press, a lot of high (but peaceful) spirits and Microsoft's arrogant stonewalling did not impress anyone (no sign of a counter-demonstration by the way).
No one got their refunds, but I think an important point was made. I would have advised Microsoft to give people their refunds. Only a tiny percentage of people would ever demand a refund and the good publicity would more than make up for the loss of revenue. Of course, the issue was never money. Neither the people demanding refunds, nor the OEM's refusing them are worried about the money involved. The people who want their refunds do not want to pay for something they are not using on principle. The OEM's, for now, do want to anger Microsoft. And, Microsoft seems afraid that what would be a trickle today could be a flood tomorrow.

more than 15 years ago


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