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Alive 5

When Microsoft get tired of battling the big issues,  they turn their spotty 
hands  to  a little bit of petty bulling against the weak and  helpless,  in 
this case, the US school system.

Read, and be totally unsurprised!

- CiH -

Software license finally enforced. Microsoft puts the squeeze on NW schools 

04/21/02 Steve Duin of

Predatory? Monopolistic? Customer-unfriendly? Microsoft?

Say it ain't,  Joe .  .  .  and Steve and John and Scott and the rest of the
computer  tech supervisors at the 24 largest school districts in Oregon  and

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.

"Which," said Scott Robinson, the district's chief technology officer, "is a 
virtual impossibility."

Microsoft is well within its rights to call for an audit.  Everyone says so.
Everyone  has  read the contract.  But school officials in both  states  are
calling  the audits "untimely," "outrageous" and "typical of Microsoft:  not 
very bright."

Many also consider the audit requirement a strong-arm tactic to push  school
districts into Microsoft's costly system-wide licensing agreements.

"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."

For sheer irony,  it's hard to beat the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation is pouring millions of dollars into small, high-tech high schools
even  as Microsoft is looking for loose change at schools such as  Jefferson
and Marshall.

The school districts are considered guilty of software piracy until they can
prove  they're  in licensing compliance.  If the district can't drum up  the
staff to manage the inventory,  Microsoft is willing to show up with its own
audit  crew,  but if a single computer is found with illegal or undocumented
software, the district must pay for the audit.

"This  doesn't  recognize  any  of  the  complexities  of  the   educational 
environment,"  Robinson  said.  Many  of the 25,000  computers  in  Portland
schools were donated and arrive without pedigree or papers. "We're bubblegum 
and  baling wire in terms of what we're putting on the desktops.  For us  to 
try  to  manage every donated desktop that comes in from a  business  or  an 
individual is ridiculous."

Ah,  but wait. Microsoft has an offer it thinks you can't refuse, if only to
avoid the audit:  the vaunted Microsoft School Agreement. Under the terms of
this  agreement,  a school or district simply counts its computers and  pays
Microsoft  somewhere  in  the  neighborhood  of  $42  per  machine  for  one
systemwide annual license.

As  Rowlands  noted,  IBM rolled out this idea years ago.  Schools liked  it
because  they could add hundreds of computers over the course of the  school
year  and  not  pay  for the additional software  licenses  until  the  next
computer count.

But   Microsoft  has  put  a  new  spin  on  the  agreement,   requiring  an
"institution-wide  commitment." That means the district must include in  its
count  not  only  the  PCs,  but all the iMacs and  Power  Macs  that  might
conceivably use Windows software.

What  would it cost Portland Public Schools,  which is already facing a  $36
million shortfall, to sign that Microsoft School Agreement?

"A rough number?  $500,000," Robinson said, "which translates, roughly, into 
10 teaching positions."

No  one  at Microsoft -- and I dialed three different  offices  --  returned
phone  calls  Friday to explain why the "random" audits  targeted  the  nine
largest school districts in Oregon and the 15 largest in Washington. Nor was
anyone  available to explain why Microsoft failed to notify the  two  groups
chartered  to  represent the schools in licensing negotiations,  the  Oregon
Educational  Technology  Consortium and the  Washington  School  Information
Processing Cooperative.

"Everyone has a bad taste about the way this came down," Carlson said.  "The 
audit  is heavy handed;  its non-participatory.  Either they're starting out 
with  the  assumption that we're all crooks or they feel they  can  bludgeon 
school  districts  into their marketing agreement.  It's clear  they're  not 
spending  much  time  talking  to  the  schools  they're  purporting  to  be 
supportive of."

Thus,  it's  not  surprising  that several schools are  asking,  along  with
Robinson  in  Portland,  "whether  we want to continue  with  the  Microsoft 

One  of the options is Linux,  open-source software schools can run on their
desktops free of charge and without a license.  Linux is particularly useful
on  donated  computers that aren't worth the $100 Microsoft  charges  for  a
software license.

Paul  Nelson,  a teacher at Riverdale,  and Eric Harrison with Multnomah ESD
have developed a thin-client software called K12LTSP that runs Linux. In the
last nine months, they've distributed the software to 5,000 schools.

"Schools  and government agencies that are paying for Microsoft  Office  are 
wasting money," Nelson said.  "They should be using free software.  A lot of 
this  stuff  has  become generic.  It doesn't take a fancy program  to  make 
something bold."

R.   Thor  Prichard,  the  executive  director  at  the  Oregon  Educational
Technology  Consortium,  observed,  "Microsoft  has  made it  known  they're 
concerned  about  Linux  invading their territory.  They're doing a  lot  of 
strategy building about eliminating Linux as a threat. Some of the districts 
they targeted are some of the districts doing initiatives in Linux."

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

Now  here's some reactions to this piece,  first one is courtesy of the head 
of Microsoft's customer disservice department!

From: MD [Michael_D]

Subject:  Re:  Software license finally enforced. Microsoft puts the squeeze 
on NW schools

Are  these  schools currently belong to the group of The 9-States  that  are
trying to break up MS ?  If so, they deserve the ax put on them! How can you
hurt  the  very  person who is trying to help you all along  ?  In  business
sense,  you out to pay me to use my products, period. I have been closing my
eyes  to  let you use my products without lisense in hoping to  gain  market
shares  and  it is a common practice!  The schools should pay  any  software
vendors,  not just MS for using their products!  In additon,  there are free
OSes (ie. Linux), why not use it instead of crying!


From: juliusz []

Alisdair Meredith wrote:

>> Well, for the check they have to cut to Microsoft every year, yes, 
>> every single year, and the cost of the audit, they could hire a time 
>> of engineers, Linux experts to help them keep in top shape all the 
>> inventory. The cost of removing Windows and installing Linux could be 
>> a part of the educational process and done by the students. Sort of 
>> "freedom in science" lesson. 
> Out of curiosity, how does installing Linux everywhere free you from 
> an invasive MS audit anyway.  You think they'll be happy to take your 
> word for "It's OK, we don't need any licenses as we're running Linux 
> now"

Uh..  I don't know.  It's a good question. So, is it possible that Microsoft
has more power then IRS or FBI and can audit anybody for no reason at all  ?
I don't think so.  But, of course I always can be wrong.

From: Alisdair Meredith

Deepak Shenoy wrote:

> Do the schools pay for the audit? I thought MS would do the audit and pay 
> for it...

If  they  find a single violation on a single PC,  then the audit costs  are

At least, that's the way it's worded.  I'd hate to imagine the PR fallout of
a  hundred k-dollar audit being passed on to schools for breaching a  single
windows license on an obsolete PC in a closet.  OTOH, if they find more than
a few, expect the full weight of the cost on your shoulders.

From: Alisdair Meredith

Alessandro Federici wrote:

>  So they spend money and they never know where they go?  They never record 
>  any expense they make?

I gather much of the equipment is donated,  rather than budgetted.  As such,
the documentation may often be lacking?

>  If  they were legal before should not be an issue to know where  and  how 
>  many licenses are being used. 

OK,  now prove all of those licenses in every corner of your organisation on
many sites covering the state.

And do it without tying up any of your already stretched resources without a

From: Michael J. Austin

It  is pretty likely that there are *many* unlicensed copies of MS  software
installed on the school system's PCs. I have no firm knowledge of this. But,
I  have worked as a high-tech migrant worker for almost 20 years and I  have
worked  at 40+ companies and government agencies in that time.  I  seriously
doubt  that  any  company I have ever worked at could survive  an  audit.  I
seriously doubt that MS could survive an audit.

MS  has already lost an incredible amount of good will in the Portland  area
as  a  result  of  their  actions.  If they  pursue  this  to  an  expensive
settlement,  they  may be surprised at the extent of the backlash.  This has
the  potential  to be a PR nightmare for MS.  School systems everywhere  are
extremely  strapped  for cash.  (David S.  Broder just discussed this school
funding crisis in his nationally-syndicated column.) It is going to look  as
if MS is kicking the schools when they are down.


Alive 5