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MS Strongarms NW Schools

April 22, 2002 4:30 PM UTC
They're at it again - hitting the 24 largest school districts in the states of Oregon and Washington with a 'random audit' just when they know it will hurt the most.

'Predatory? Monopolistic? Customer-unfriendly? Microsoft?' asks Oregonian reporter Steve Duin.

'At the busiest time of the year for those districts, Microsoft is demanding that they conduct an internal software audit to 'certify licensing compliance.' In a March letter, the software giant gave Portland Public Schools 60 days to inventory its 25,000 computers.'

Once again Microsoft, dismayed that no one likes their new Windows XP and its product activation system, is using mafia tactics to force already impoverished schools to upgrade.

'Given the fact that the letter came from their marketing department, and included a brochure about their school licensing agreement, this didn't seem terribly subtle to any of us,' said Steve Carlson, associate superintendent for information and technology for Beaverton schools.

'I have a more simplistic view,' said John Rowlands, director of information services for the Seattle School District. 'They just want to squeeze every nickel out of us they can.'

All the while Billg and Melindaf try to build image by donating hundreds of millions of dollars in hardware - and Windows of course - to other schools. As Duin says, the irony is thick.

But such is the law of the land, and if the schools do not comply, they can be brought up on charges and fined up to $200K for every instance of unlicensed software that is found. The Portland Public Schools alone are already facing a $36M shortfall. The 25,000 machines running bubble gum and baling wire desktops can have almost anything at all, and there is no way the schools can control it - and Microsoft knows it.

Of course they could give in. Microsoft Marketing wants them to sign a restrictive system-wide contract. But to be able to afford that, they would have to lay off at least ten teachers.

Duin tried desperately last Friday to reach someone - anyone - at Microsoft for comment. He dialed three different numbers, left messages at each. No one has returned his call - natch. Duin also wants to know why the Oregon Educational Technology Consortium and the Washington School Information Processing Cooperative were not notified. But Microsoft is not picking up the phone. Duin concludes:

'Subtle? Artful? Benevolent? Microsoft? That'll be the day.'

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