September 17, 2003 2:54 PM PDT
Lindows capitalizes on Microsoft settlement
Under the MSfreePC promotion launched Tuesday, Lindows will process the claims for anyone who qualifies for benefits from the recent settlement of a class-action suit that accused Microsoft of violating state antitrust laws.
Under the terms of the $1.1 billion settlement, individuals and businesses that bought Windows or certain Microsoft applications--including MSDOS or Windows software obtained as part of the purchase of a computer--in California between Feb. 18, 1995, and Dec. 15, 2001, can receive a voucher ranging from $5 to $29 good for the purchase of hardware or software products from any manufacturer. Law firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew, which handled the suit, began distributing claim forms for vouchers early this week.
Lindows is offering to process claims on behalf of current and former California residents. Anyone who completes a valid claim using the company's online "Instant Settlement Wizard" gets an immediate credit to buy Lindows software or hardware. The first 10,000 claims submitted also get a free WebStation, the stripped-down PC Lindows introduced earlier this year.
Lindows CEO Michael Robertson characterized the program as a way to hold Microsoft accountable by making it easier for consumers to assert their rights. Microsoft could pay out anywhere from $367 million to $1.1 billion in the settlement, depending on how many people apply for benefits.
"If they really are offering a $1.1 billion settlement, I think they should pay that," Robertson said. "If you look at the process consumers are required to do, it's an amazing labyrinth they have to go through...and it doesn't have to be that way."
And there's a little poetry to the idea of Microsoft paying for people to try Linux, he added. "If a few of Microsoft's dollars go to reinvigorate the competitive landscape, I think that's sweet justice."
Robertson, who first drew attention as founder of digital music company MP3.com, has emerged as a colorful antagonist of Microsoft since launching Lindows, which sells a version of the open-source Linux operating system intended to appeal to novice PC users. Robertson funded a $200,000 hacking challenge aimed at Microsoft's Xbox and will go to court later this year in a trademark dispute lodged by the software giant.