At the top of the MSfreePC.com home page, it says, "In connection with a legal settlement, you may be eligible for a FREE PC and allowed to purchase up to $100 worth of software paid for by MicrosoftÃÂ®!" The catch is that you must live in California. And to use MSfreePC.com to collect your share of the Microsoft antitrust settlement booty, you must accept it in the form of Lindows products, a major piece of irony that Lindows CEO Michael Robertson says is not in the least accidental.
I asked Robertson, "Aren't you afraid that Microsoft won't love you any more after this move?"
A rough paraphrase of his answer, perhaps distorted since both he and I were talking on cell phones at the time: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. They weren't my friends before this!"
Okay, maybe Robertson isn't Microsoft's favorite living human being. He's learned to live with that badge of honor in his life. But he says the idea of setting up a way for Californians to easily use their Microsoft settlement money to purchase Lindows products came about because he was talking with so many lawyers so often that reading through boring legal documents had become second nature for him, so when he first saw the Microsoft settlement (.pdf download), he read it all the way through and was more than a little intrigued by it.
He found that the Microsoft Settlement, California version, had something in common with almost all class action lawsuits: "Many hoops to jump through for clients." And then, after jumping, it could be months or years before you actually get anything.
Robertson said he worked with the attorneys on the case to "make some small changes in the settlement to accommodate this."
Californians who feel they're better off filing a claim form the traditional way are certainly free to do so by following instructions at microsoftcalsettlement.com/. But Robertson told me his way is easier -- and lots faster. "Go ahead and try the Instant Settlement Wizard," he said. "See how much you're due."
I did, and if I lived in California -- and if I was one of the first 10,000 to apply through MSfreePC -- Microsoft would buy me a copy of Lindows 4.0. Woohoo!
Getting an actual Free PC is another matter. This popup page says:
To qualify to receive the Bonus FREE PC, you must be one of the first 10,000 people who purchases $100 of products at the MSfreePC.com web site using your Instant Settlement*. The FREE PC will be a version of a WebStation PC.
After the court-appointed settlement claims administrator has paid your claim, and the monies have been received by us and any checks have cleared, we will email you (at the email address you provide to MSfreePC.com) the details on how to receive your FREE PC.
Should you qualify and once you have been notified of how to claim your FREE PC and should you accept the offer to receive the FREE PC, you will be required to pay only Shipping and Handling charges. The FREE PC offer will only be available if and when the settlement claims administrator disburses the claim monies and such funds have cleared and are available in our bank account.
The computer images used on the MSfreePC web site are for graphical representation purposes only. Monitor is not included. The FREE PC may or may not be the same configuration as the images shown on the MSfreePC.com website.
Well... some free software is better than nothing, I suppose. And as both the MSfreePC site and the class action attorneys' site point out, you are free to give away whatever vouchers, software or hardware you get as your share of the Microsoft settlement, at least within fairly generous limits.
Robertson doesn't claim he set up MSfreePC purely out of the goodness of his heart. "It's a great promotion for us," he admited freely. "But," he added, "it's also a win for the consumer."
I asked him if the third party here -- Microsoft -- was also coming out as a winner in this deal.
All he said was, "Well...."
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