Free Win98 SE update – epilogue

The crazy saga concludes - and did you know MS will accept any old proof of purchase you care to fax?

Last week we left the Microsoft UK Windows 98 SE free update saga with the suggestion that although it wasn't possible to get it entirely for free now, once upon a time it seems to have been. We've now heard from quite a few people who got a free copy, so either Microsoft's logistics systems have been seriously broken, or the company's been telling fibs. The key date in the saga is last Tuesday, 6th July, which is when Microsoft UK changed its Web site, adding a postage and packaging charge of UKP16.82. Microsoft had earlier announced that all registered Windows 98 users in the UK could get the SE update for free, and the Web site hadn't previously said anything about a price. Numerous Register readers had taken advantage of the offer before 6th July, and Microsoft took orders for both retail and OEM upgrades without mentioning price to them. These readers - mostly - have now received their update CD, for free. Several received the CD on 6th July itself, but we have sightings earlier as well, for both retail and OEM versions again. That means that Microsoft was blithely accepting orders from all and sundry before it issued OEMs with a clarifying letter, and before it (we surmise) told the Microsoft Connection not to take orders from OEM users. Tsk. Copies were delivered by courier, accompanied by an invoice showing a total of UKP0.00. Short of anybody deciding to pursue Microsoft on the basis that it did say it would give the software away entirely for free, and then demonstrated what it meant by this before (again, we surmise) changing its mind, that concludes the tale. But a few of our readers sent us heart-warming tales of MS' Greatest Hits, and we thought we'd share them with you. Our thanks to all of you who helped out by keeping us up to date on this story: It's not just MS that can be economical with l'actualite, reader 1 tells us: "In response to your article on getting the Win98 SE for free, I feel I should tell you about my experience. When I'd heard about the "free" offer I visited the MS website and filled out the appropriate form. It was then I noticed the offer was only valid for a retail version. As I have an OEM version I assumed I would have to contact the manufacturer. Then I noticed something interesting... in order to prove you had a retail version of Win 98 all you had to send was either a copy of the receipt or a proof of purchase from the side of the Win 98 box. As I have a few boxed MS products I checked out the proof of purchase on the side and lo and behold they are all the same. So I thought what the hell, cut the proof of purchase off the side of Works 99 and sent it in along with the form from the web site. And you'll be pleased to know it arrived safe and sound yesterday with absolutely no cost to me." Reader 2 has further evidence of how good Microsoft is at reading the bits of paper it gets faxed: "Just to let you know that I received my nice update disk this morning via UPS. Without having to pay any postage and as an upgrade for a copy of Win 98 that was purchased at the Microsoft store in Redmond for the employee price of $10 !!!! I thought that I would send it off and see what happened using the authenticity certificate on the side of the box, (as obviously a receipt from MS themselves may not have worked), and it worked !!!" So you can get free upgrades on discount US versions too. And then there's the Microsoft Connection's intimate knowledge of Microsoft's own licensing agreements: "We received a free copy of the SE upgrade! However, things aren't quite that simple... "We run six machines under 98, some OEM and some copies of 98 that we have purchased. As we did not want to fall foul of the licencing requirements, we phoned Microsoft UK for clarification on whether we would need one copy or six copies of the upgrade disk. We were told that only one disk would be required to update our six machines... [Wrong, of course if it was a service pack, one copy would be sufficient. As it's a product, you need one for each machine.] "We faxed off a photocopy of the certificate on the front of one of the Windows 98 manuals along with the form downloaded from the web and received a free disk in the post a couple of days later, postage paid! However, upon reading the licence agreement enclosed it was clear that whoever we spoke to at Microsoft was wrong and we would need separate copies for each machine... "We downloaded another copy of the form from the web (Which incidentally first thing on the morning of the 6th didn't mention postage) along with photocopies of certificates/product packaging to cover another five copies. We are still waiting to receive our extra disks..." According to our reading of the Microsoft statements of last week, this reader should be eligible for free copies, as he applied prior to the price being posted. Finally, one reader offers an interesting suggestion. As the cost is to cover delivery, what if you turned up at the nearest MS office clutching your proof of purchase and demanding to be handed it. A sort of "Linux refund day in reverse," our genius suggests this could be run as. Maybe some large corporate MS site might care to investigate doing a deal for, say, 20,000 Win98 clients and sending a van round to pick them up? Photos, if you do it, please. ®

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