back to article Italy sues Microsoft for box-bundling bungling

The Italian consumer watchdog is suing Microsoft over the "Windows Tax" – the near impossibility of an ordinary user getting a refund if they decide to delete Microsoft's software from a new computer or laptop. The class action case says Microsoft makes it too difficult for people who buy a computer with Microsoft software on …


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    1. handle

      What choice?

      "if you chose to buy a machine with its software included."

      Except you didn't. It is a choice of the machine with its software included, or no machine at all.

      Why are you finding that so hard to understand?

      "I know dell used to have an Ubuntu option not sure what happened to it."

      Other computer manufacturers are available...

    2. Robert E A Harvey
      Gates Horns

      Just don't buy that machine!

      Fair enough. Have you tried?

      >If there's any blame it should be reserved purely for the resellers they should

      >include an option to buy it with no software.

      I've lost count of the number of times I've tried, and been told they are 'not allowed' to sell it without windows. M$ has them stitched up like a kipper.

      >I know dell used to have an Ubuntu option

      They had a very carefully hidden ubuntu option on one or two of their products. I tried to buy a mainstream laptop without windows and was refused.

      1. Charles Manning

        Yes I have

        Here in NZ I can go to various custom PC builders and buy a PC with No OS and then load up Linux. They don't do laptops though.

        Seems in Blighty you can get the same thing, including laptops, at places like .

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is silly

      "I know not everyone loves Microsoft but I don't that they should be made to give a refund on their software if you chose to buy a machine with its software included."

      You don't *think* that they should be made to give a refund? They *have* to give a refund! Read the licensing terms: it's one of the things that get Microsoft off the hook for bundling their stuff, monopolist-style.

      "Just don't buy that machine!"

      And what are the options if Joe Punter decides that he doesn't want Windows bundled with his latest purchase, either because he wants to run something else or because he already has a Windows licence doing nothing at this particular moment that would come in handy for his new purchase? Most of the consumer-facing retail outfits are selling Windows bundled on the hardware whether you want it or not. Unless Joe Punter gets advice from experts, he won't be buying anything at all.

      "If there's any blame it should be reserved purely for the resellers they should include an option to buy it with no software."

      The resellers' excuse is that they don't want to "confuse" the punters. As if they don't already confuse them with countless add-ons, up-sales, superfluous insurance, crapware unbundling services. Resellers with shit service, who only follow legislation if the people from Which? (Consumer Reports for Americans reading this) force them to, pass the buck to the vendors.

      The vendors' excuse is that they want to be able to sell stuff "ready to go", even though it generally isn't "ready to go" and has to "initialise" itself, or that they've "tested the configuration" which means that they shipped the same chipset drivers as everyone else and won't give any real support if it craps out. They insist it's really a single, indivisible product and typically pass the buck back to the resellers suggesting that they refund the whole purchase.

      And Microsoft's excuse is that the vendors and resellers "demand" Windows and that the vendors and resellers are responsible for refunds, which in reality can only be the case if Microsoft shuns their obligation written in the licence agreement, suggesting that what is actually happening behind the scenes is that vendors get sweetened bulk licence agreements from Microsoft if they swallow the refund cost themselves.

      "I know dell used to have an Ubuntu option not sure what happened to it."

      Don't we all. Beware of the leopard time, everyone! It's widely believed that Microsoft have warned Dell that if stuff like Ubuntu is made more widely available, the preferential Windows licensing terms go round the U-bend, and Dell will have to pay more for their Windows bundling activities. Microsoft also don't like vendors shipping systems without an operating system altogether because of "teh pirates".

      So everyone has to pay their tax to Bill and pals just so Bill doesn't feel stiffed by those "pirates", some of whom are merely customers of his, looking to put a separately bought copy of Windows onto something other than their bookshelf. But the Sheriff of Redmond must have his cut of every transaction, especially if it's an unnecessary one of his own making!

      It's time to unbundle Windows once and for all, and only the regulators can really make that happen: "the market" is too busy with its kickbacks and secret preferential/penalty pricing agreements to function in any fair manner.

      1. Ammaross Danan

        Flames and Retard(ant)s

        "As if they don't already confuse them with countless add-ons, up-sales, superfluous insurance, crapware unbundling services."

        Windows come bundled since it makes the computer reseller's (Dell, HP, et al) life easier. Bulk licensing from MS, and they don't have to have *nix techies on staff to do the minor troubleshooting prior to returning the device for repair (which they do under warranty).

        In addition to that, the resellers get quite the pretty penny from "McAfee" (Intel now...), Symantec, CrapWareUSA/UK, and its ilk for pre-loading their crapware on your shiney new computer. They won't sell you Linux since they can't load the crapware on it. They have to make money on their miniscule margins somehow.

        As for those buying a computer, but wanting to put "another OS" on it, it's likely that these people already know enough to build the kit themselves. Demanding a refund would only be useful in Corporate environments where the IT staff simply reimage the machines with their Volume License prebuild or other similar situations. This is more likely than the occasional user who has purchased a copy of Windows off-the-shelf and plans to bin their old machine and move the license. This said, you're only likely to get ~$10 back anyway, as bulk licensing is fairly cheap for OEMs.

        1. Fuzz

          volume license

          Volume license for windows is an upgrade license, to use them you're supposed to have an existing OEM license for the computer. This isn't enforced but you certainly can't ask for your money back on the OEM license. If you could then it would be common practice.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Flames and Retard(ant)s

          "In addition to that, the resellers get quite the pretty penny from "McAfee" (Intel now...), Symantec, CrapWareUSA/UK, and its ilk for pre-loading their crapware on your shiney new computer. They won't sell you Linux since they can't load the crapware on it. They have to make money on their miniscule margins somehow."

          How about some price transparency? All this "Windows is so cheap when it's an OEM licence" is just an excuse devised by Microsoft to make it look like Windows "is part of the machine" and "nearly free", thus dissuading people from thinking anything irregular is going on, while any attempt to buy Windows separately suddenly merits a purchase price ten times higher than the OEM licence price. So Microsoft, who have supposedly sold Windows licences to vendors, won't sell Windows to you at that price, but in principle they like the idea of throwing a few coins at you if you refuse to use their stuff.

          You can argue that the crapware "subsidy" involves the vendor having someone else pay for most of the Windows licence. People should be able to see those numbers, because I imagine that the crapware vendors pay some kind of advertising fee to get their stuff pre-loaded, but I doubt that it comes close to eliminating the pricing discrepancy described above. People should also be able to refuse that stuff, too: it's a nonsense that such stuff is a necessary part of a system, and when the retailers start offering services to delete such stuff, you can't help feeling that there's some dirty little scheme to spread revenues around (if the vendor can make money from crapware, why can't the retailer?) on something completely superfluous.

          And enough with the "build it yourself" nonsense: it's exactly this kind of thing that prevents any investigation into the mainstream practices of the industry.

    4. Ian Yates

      I /kind of/ agree with you

      If, as some say, Microsoft is basically holding resellers to ransom to only offer PCs with Windows on or pay higher costs, then they should prepare for a few hefty fines from every corner of the globe.

      If, however, it is the resellers who do it due to "market forces"... I'm not entirely sure what people expect to happen here...

      I don't really want to defend MS' market tactics, given their history, but I'm not convinced they're to blame if OEMs don't offer alternatives... Dell's argument used to be about them supporting alternative OSs, since they can't sell a product without a warranty.

      Aren't we also rapidly treading in to even worse territory regarding Apple products here?

    5. Doug Glass

      The EULA ...

      ... states the buyer can get a refund if they don't agree to it and don't run the software. That being the case, I assume you're either on Microsoft's payroll or are just ignorant of what MS says they will do. Get it ? it's a Microsoft offer, not a user demand that MS is bragging their feet on.

    6. J 3

      Re: This is silly

      I see you're new to computers and El Reg. Welcome.

    7. The BigYin


      "Just don't buy that machine!"

      And do what, live in the dark ages? Or get a degree in computer science so one can build their own from scratch? How about you get your head out of your arse and face the real world.

      If I buy a Ford car, I get a Ford engine. Honda car? Honda engine. Opel? Some GM engine. And so on, but they all conform to the various standards (in terms of car and engine and ignoring certain cross-development agreements). Either way, they is competition in car engines.

      If I buy Sony, HP, Dell, Toshiba or any other major brand I am forced to have MS Windows. A bit like buying a Ford and being forced to also buy an external combustion engine from Billy Bob's Steam Emporium. i.e. it is detrimental to the hardware and there is no competition.

      There are better options (no really, there are) but the restrictive practices of the bully-boy stop them gaining traction. Of course, we are talking about a company that is too scared to implement their own "standards" consistently. Bugger them (hand and shrimp). If you are spec'ing equipment, don't ask how F/OSS (or whomever) will match MS, ask MS how they will match (in technical detail) open standards.

      All cars should drive on the same roads. At the moment 95% are only allowed access as they run MS tyres that only work on MS roads. Explains all the crashes I guess.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Weak sauce

        You don't need a comp sci degree to build a PC, you just need to be able to handle something with the complexity of lego, and make a couple of lists based on fairly basic research.

        I speak as someone with a comp sci degree, who was building machines before that, and after, by way of comparison. It's a brain in neutral activity- best done with a nice strong cup of tea and some music to keep you occupied.

        It's a geeky exercise for people who like to tinker, but you no more need a comp sci degree to build a PC than you do a civil engineering degree to put up wallpaper.

        1. Colin Millar

          Desktops yes

          Laptops - no - very few options around for BYO.

      2. It wasnt me
        Thumb Down


        "Dell's argument used to be about them supporting alternative OSs, since they can't sell a product without a warranty."

        That is pure horse shit. Dell have never sold a single PC to an end user with a warranty that was worth the paper it was printed on.

        You have to return the computer to them, at your cost, in Ireland, using their courier, for £70 quid. I was then told that it was a problem with the software (I got stitched by Vista) and it was Microsofts problem. Needless to say I was left with no choice but to skip a 3 month old computer that had become unuseable, or put another O.S on it.

        Lessons learned: Never, ever buy anything from Dell. There are alternatives to M.S. and they are much, much better. We just need to remove the illegal monopolies that prevent the rest of the world from benefitting, which is what this article is about. Personally, I hope Dell fall on their own sword. And MS certainly will if anyone ever stands up to them.

    8. gnufreex

      Dell lies through it's teeth

      "I know dell used to have an Ubuntu option not sure what happened to it."

      They just say that they have non-Windows computers, and when someone asks for them, they call that person a freak. There is no free market, you don't have a choice. Microsoft is a criminal organization and they should be hunted down just like Sicilian Mafia.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Build your own?

    "The battle to win Windows Tax refunds has been a long-running bugbear for techies. "

    Surely techies would be building their own PCs rather than buying pre-built machines? It's plenty easy enough and only takes an hour or two, once every couple of years. That way you get the exact spec you want, and unless you're looking at a low end machine (<£500), it won't cost you any extra.

    1. Lewis Mettler

      build your own laptop?

      Sure you can build your own desktop. I have been doing that for twenty years plus. But, try that with a laptop. Or, a tablet. Or, even a mobile phone.

      Just remember if you have a copy of IE, your opinion does not count. At all. You were forced to buy it. The only question is the price you were forced to pay.

      Both Netscape and Microsoft sold their browers side by side retail for $35 before Microsoft illegally bundled IE with the OS.

      Legally you pay a portion of the sales cost for each part in the bag. So IE is NOT free. It can not be. Microsoft spends real money on R&D. And they do not have any no-cost products. They do not use alternative revenue models. Only illegal ones to force you to buy their stuff.

      I have to laugh at the Microsoft salesman posing as consumers claiming they actually want IE. No consumer ever wants to be forced to buy anything. No food. No clothing. Nothing.

      Neither has anyone ever suggested that you should not be able to buy IE if that is really what you want. Unless you run a non-Microsoft OS. Then you may not be able to get it no matter what you pay or do.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      @Build your own?

      What about a laptop?

      And while I know there are a few good guys out there (like Novatech in the UK) who give you the choice, most don't.

      So how about this: you get MS pre-installed (so Joe Average has no faffing about with installation CDs and drivers, etc) but don't pay for it until you activate it, where you then pay MS directly?

      This uses MS's own established anti-piracy feature to its best effect, and makes user aware of what they pay to MS and the value they get. Anyone who is wiping it then has nothing to pay as they simply don't enter their credit card details when MS asks.


      1. Robert E A Harvey
        Thumb Up

        Novatech Yay!

        I'e bought a laptop from them, and put Suse 10.2 on it, perfectly happy with it.

        Can I also mention who also do not insist on the Microsoft tax.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          eBuyer too

          I'm typing this on one of eBuyer's no-OS laptops. It's never had Windows and never will. It's a Clevo so I call it Trevor.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Their hardware is fairly shoddy, and SuSe 10.2, seriously, that's a good thing?

      2. The BigYin


        Have you read the reviews? I was keen on them but now, no way. Which is a same.

        System 76, Frostbite etc; too expensive in the UK though.

      3. Ian Yates

        @Lewis Mettler

        I was interested in your statement about IE being sold on shelves, since I never witnessed that, but I can't find any reference to MS ever selling IE. Was this some kind of specially supported boxed edition?

        I was under the impression they gave IE away with Windows to avoid having to pay royalties for the underlying tech - which they later rebuilt themselves. There was a massive lawsuit around this in the late 90's.

        I agree with your statement about it being "free", though; even if I disagree that people have the choice to use another browser.

        Do you make similar complaints about the engine components in your car? The parallels are quite interesting.

        Ack. I sound like a MS sympathiser... must be time for some shell scripting

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the contrary...

      A lot of professional techies do want pre-built systems that come with warranties.

      It may not take long to throw a PC together from parts, but when it comes to maintenance, those techies have more important things to do than troubleshooting and repairing their own desktop systems when just a phone call invokes the on-site warranty.

      1. Bob. Hitchen
        Thumb Down

        Dream On

        The warranty isn't worth the paper it's written on. Most of the activity is upfront on a new machine just like the day job. Most failures are hardware related longer term so software warranties are a waste of time. Most software support outside heavy commercial/government customers sucks somebody usually has a work round on the web. All my desk tops are home built the laptop was supplied by work with 2000 on it. I still run XP but most of my stuff runs under Ubuntu these days.

    4. The BigYin


      An Apple TV2 costs £92. At that price-point why would I build my own? I'm just going to hack it anyway (hellooooooo XBMC).

      For higher-end systems you are almost right, but it can often be cheaper to buy a pre-built system and simply buy the odd tweak. Depends on individual circumstances.

      Either way, as I am time-poor, I am happy to pay someone else to build a system for me. Last time I checked, MS did not do hardware, so why am I paying them?

  3. Steve Renouf

    Hooray! Elbow! Power to!

    Fantastic! At last! Perhaps in future we WILL be able to buy a computer without being forced to accept all the crud they insist on pre-installing (including the OS).

    Why should we have to pay for Windows when we actually use Linux - or, even if we do want windows, why should they decide which version???

    1. The BigYin

      I have an XP license...

      ...I'm using right now as it happens, got "South Park" on the TV via "Media Center". Anyhoo, it has been "value for money" for me. That's OK.

      But now I want a lappy, smart phone, NAS and a few other things (life changes, y'know). As far as I can make out, all the F/OSS options are all big happy-pals and (under virtualisation) they seem to work well. But when trying to buy the kit. The MS tax would bankrupt me. Sending my money co Cupertino is (bizarrely) cheaper and that still means buying something I don't need (still, at least it is Unix based).

  4. Dex

    Hasn't all this....

    ...been tried before and gotten absolutely nowhere?

    If you want a machine without Windows or MS it your damn self, it's not friggin' hard!

    Safety specs icons as some people STILL don't know how to build thier own machines

    *Post made from a Windows machine for added irony*

    1. handle

      Try building a laptop!

      You might find that rather more "friggin' hard."

      You seem to have forgotten a huge section of the PC market...

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      Some of us have lives in the the real world! You know, the real world, the bit outside the kitchen window you see briefly when raiding your Mum's fridge, before sneaking off back down to the basement?

      It may surprise you to learn that some IT techs just want to switch off when they leave work, most do not want to spend all night fitting a new MB or some other WankerTech X23YX hardware to their machines. A lot of us are on-call so we know we'll get to play fix the server at some point before the sun rises!

      I spend all day faffing about with PCs and servers. I want to go home, play with the kids, sit down have a meal with the family, then relax by switching on my machine and messing about with some music or doing my photography. I want the PC to just work.

      Now back down to your Mum's basement or under your bridge, before the Sun comes up, eh?

      1. The BigYin


        Hear, hear. My hobbies revolve around the scientific appliance of violence to the human form. This I call "fun". Working with a computers in any shape or form is, no matter how amusing, still "work" just like any fight is still ugly and painful.

        I like my computer*. I like my dishwasher. I do not have to spend hours securing my dishwasher from t'interwebs.

        *My PC has a DVD with its name on it, now I just need the crimson head covering......

    3. The BigYin

      Go get a grip

      I am well capable of building a PC, but my time is worth more. I am happy to pay a pro to build it for me (just like I paid the guy today to fit the carpets) but I will *NOT* pay for shit I do not want.

      Example: I had two rooms carpeted, I was not forced to but special shows to walk on said carpets. PCs should be the same way. Unfortunately they are not.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I have a happier time with linux and home builds

        Personally, I have an easier time with home builds and linux than I have buying boxes that run Windows.

        With the company I use for parts, delivery is sweet, organised and tight. Returns handling is equally smooth. ( - I've used them for over twelve years now.) It doesn't take more than an hour to build it after the components have come to temperature.

        Also, this way, I am avoiding any tinkering that the box shifters do with the hardware to either save money, or dissable features on lower cost systems (remember Sony and the Win7 XP compatability BIOS affair?) The components I buy are unhindered and generally worth the money I'm paying for them.

        Heck, if I'm really hard up, I can pay Scan some extra dosh to build and test it for me. They've even got engineers who can come out to you if you've got grief if you do it this way.

        With some PC delivery companies, the delivery is a mess. You've only got to remember the haphazard, chaotic Dell deliveries. Warantee repair is usually back to base.

        With Linux and my pre-prepared installs scripts - I have have Ubuntu installed, updated and 95% of my favourite applications running in less than two hours. Becuase I've got my home directories stored, all the faffing around with preferences and options is automatically carried over.

        With Windows, it would take a whole day to wipe the machine, install the OS, enter a cycle of update, reboot, apply more updates, reboot, apply more updates, reboot, and then have to do battle with serial numbers and registration codes until they are driving me mad.

        Then over the course of the next day or two, I'm fiddling with settings and options.

        Over the life time of a machine, I save myself days of faffing around with pre-built Windows loaded junk.

        The only exception are laptops ... I really would LOVE to get my money back from Microsoft for these licences ... the problem is that after an experience with an NB200 in 2009, it was made clear to me by a Tosh engineer that if I wanted the machine without windows, I'd have to pay more becuase MS had subsisided the range in order to bolster Windows in the Linux battlefield.

        What I'd really like to see is the following...

        *) When a manufacturer does the operating system for a machine, instead of pre-loading it on every hard drive, they burn it on a DVD. This transfers the cost of blowing an image on to hard drives, on to duplicating DVDs.(which they do anyway for the restore DVD's so they'd actually be saving themselves a small fortune)

        *) All hardware sold comes without an operating system and if the customer wants an operating system at time of buying, or they can buy them later at their own choice. They can either buy the DVDs at the time of purchasing the system (a discount could be applied if it was at time of hardware purchase) or they buy the hardware without the DVDs and avoid paying teh Microsoft tax in the first place.

        This would be a fair playing field for no extra grief; actually saving the manufacturers grief in hard drive pre-loads.

        But no one will do it because it prevents Microsoft subsidising the hardware. Everybody loses except the people that don't want to buy Windows.

        So ... what do we do ... if we force MS to pay us back the MS tax, then as they've subsidised some computers, we might end up owing MS money. Personally, I'm happy to take Microsoft's money and run.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I have a happier time with linux and home builds

          "The only exception are laptops ... I really would LOVE to get my money back from Microsoft for these licences ... the problem is that after an experience with an NB200 in 2009, it was made clear to me by a Tosh engineer that if I wanted the machine without windows, I'd have to pay more becuase MS had subsisided the range in order to bolster Windows in the Linux battlefield."

          And how legal is that, especially in the light of regulatory scrutiny of Microsoft? Sure, Microsoft's full-price-paying customers end up subsidising hardware, but it just expands the market for new full-price-paying customers (and excludes competitors, of course).

          I completely agree with your DVD-based scheme offering choice to the purchaser. That's what the EU should have done instead of horsing around with browser choice screens and relying on Microsoft not to game the whole exercise, all while ignoring the fundamental issues.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            I don't think there is full price

            Legal? Since when did they bother with legal? Use the monetary advantage to knock the competitor off the shelf and by the time the courts have caught up, the fine is worth paying because by that time, you're competitor is already toast.

            Microsoft have so many different deals on the table; enterprise agreements and all the rest of it. The only solid price pattern I can see is the one for the shrink wrapped stuff on the shelf. The only full price I see the general public forking out for is the home/student version of office; windows is already on their machines. To that extent, is there that much difference between that and the deals that the anti-virus vendors are doing to pre-load anti-virus software on machines? Where were the European bods on that? I bet they haven't even thought about it.

            And if I was to hazard a guess, based on the small number of correspondence that I've had with the European competition people; my money would be that they are blind. They see Apple, MacOS; PC, Microsoft. I would lay odds that none of them have any appreciation for what Linux can offer on an enterprise level because none of them have likely set foot in a server room or discussed why (x)nix is the engine behind the Internet ... because the only thing they see are desktops and, therefore Windows and MacOS.

            That's where my money lies, anyway. The European bods aren't interested in it, because they don't think there is a real, substantive argument to be had.

            I was looking at the statistics for a local government web site today (not my district, before you ask) and there were three times as many hits from the iPhone than there were from Linux. Then again, substantive statistics have always escaped us. There must be so many people out there who wouldn't really know what Linux is if it waddled up, squawked and pecked them in the privates.

  5. Roger Greenwood

    Circa tempo


    That is all.

  6. Select * From Handle
    IT Angle

    This has always confused me when it comes to the "Microsoft Tax"

    Ok i can see that when buying a laptop it maybe a little annoying as its pretty hard to get hold of a laptop without windows installed.

    My confusion though lies with desktops. i just don't understand the logic behind a person who is savvy enuff to install other OS's. What i mean is why did they buy a "PC world"(or whatever?) desktop computer with the intent to put a different OS on it and try get a refund from Microsoft, when if they went online they could get a system without an OS?

    Am i the only one who thinks its a really stupid way to go about things?

    1. handle

      Because you don't have to be savvy any more

      Believe it or not, other OSs have got to the point where you don't have to be "techy" to install them.

      You need to be far more techy to keep up to date protecting yourselves from the malware threats which plague Windows!

    2. lurker

      I see where you are coming from, but..

      While I see what you are saying, the problem is that it's not just "PC World or whatever", it's pretty close to impossible to buy a pre-built PC without windows on it. Take a look around, you won't find many options, because MS have bullied and/or bribed all the box-shifters into ensuring that Windows is installed as standard.

      So this means that anyone who wants to install another OS but doesn't feel confident enough to build their own PC basically has to pay the 'microsoft tax'. Given that Ubuntu is trying to make inroads into the less technical end of the market, this might be a reasonable number of people, and it negates one of Ubuntu's clear selling points vs Microsoft - the fact that it is free.

      Also, how about laptops? It's not like even the most geeky of us build those from parts.

    3. The BigYin


      ...Lnx s lss bt hrt thn Wndws.

      [I would use vowels, but the patent landscape is uncertain]

    4. Seanie Ryan

      not the only one, but at least you asked nicely...

      i know plenty of people who are sh*t hot with software and OS's, but ask them to open up the machine and mess with the bits and they shy away immediately.

      on the other hand, I am well capable of building a system myself, but am not sitting around with naff all else to do each day anymore, have a relatively busy life style, so I just want to be able to buy it all from one source and know i have a good warranty & support.

      always remember , everyone is different.

  7. Jamie Kitson


    MS updated its agreement, as reported on the Register. I tried to get a refund from Dell but they weren't playing ball:

    Thank you for contacting Dell customer care.

    The machine you ordered online is bundled to have Windows operating system and you have no option but to use the machine and the OS.

    If you decided not to will not going to get a refund as mentioned this is bundled together with the machine. You ordered it together with it and this is why we built it as how you place it online.

    1. Jamie Kitson


  8. Lewis Mettler

    Walmart refuses

    In the US, Walmart refuses to give credit to a buyer if they return the Microsoft OS.

    The local manager of the electronics department was completely unaware of the EULA that gives the consumer the right to refuse Microsoft software bundled with the PC. He just did not know. And this was a manager that bought his own PC at Frys to avoid buying Vista a while back.

    No doubt Microsoft just tells retailers to ignore the consumer right.

    Just remember if you have a copy of IE, your opinion does not count. Not because I think so. Microsoft requires it. You are precluded from having the opinion. You just do not count.

    1. Charles Manning

      So... don't buy from Walmart

      There are companies that will sell No OS PCs. Take your business there instead.

      When people complain and still buy then there is no motivation for the retailer to change.

  9. Joe Montana

    Just don't buy it...

    You often don't get the choice of wether you want windows or not...

    If you want a pre built machine or especially a laptop, your choices for one without windows are significantly more limited... These days it's also become very hard to find a netbook without windows. Dell might offer some systems with ubuntu, but this is only a very limited range, which isn't available everywhere and isn't easy to find on their site.

    More options are available online than in retail, but sometimes you don't have the time to wait for delivery and you need to buy something immediately.

    Your only real options are to either buy server oriented systems (typically more expensive, but usually have a linux option) or to build your own system from parts. For server systems, dell atleast offer a configuration site where you can choose the options, you can upgrade various components and choose to have linux or a blank drive installed... Something like this for desktops would be very useful, but MS would never allow it because it would show windows as a costly line on the invoice.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Choice good, refund better

      Choice would be good but when there is no choice the option to get a Windows OEM licence refund should be as simple as filling in a form and mailing it back to Microsoft.

      Microsoft allows you to reject their licence, rejecting the licence should automatically entitle you to a refund without needing a day in court.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. OSC

    It's not about techies rolling their own

    It's about the barrier to creating a market for alternatives.

    As we have seen with FF, Chrome, whatever, people can and do choose not to use the market dominant incumbent.

    The prevailing paradigm, computer = dominant incumbent = their software is how it all works, is the issue.

    We saw how low a netbook could cost if it came with, e.g. Linpus,(my AAO is now on openSUSE 11.3, ta)

    It could be lower hardware spec'ed (see "hardware manuf partially to blame..")

    All of this causes deadweight cost to the consumer (allegedly)

    All dominant incumbents can create this problem, others before them were, others after them will be in the same position

    That's why we have competition law.

    I hope this gets somewhere as it will do everybody a favour. After all look how much IE improved once there was real competition (I understand, never use it)

    There's even something in this for penguin haters. If LOTD is as useless as _you_ say it is, then a win means there'll be one fewer reason for penguins to bleat (or whatever the correct onomatopoeic word is)

  12. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Windows fanboys

    Even if you want to run Windows it is not in your interests to pay for an OEM licence if you have a boxed retail copy of Windows.

    There are plenty of fanboys who go and buy the retail boxed version on the day it is released.

  13. Matt_payne666

    So what...

    and as for joe public... we have all seen what happens if you dont include windows... look at the netbook... the holy grail for open source... after mr/mrs average uturned on their shiny new linux machine the first complaint is... but my stuff doesnt work on it... followed by how do i use XYZ hardware on it... 99% of hardware that you can buy will come with drivers for windows... thats what consumers and retailers want... path of least resistance

    Microsoft windows is for the vast majotiry of 'NORMAL' people what they want...

    Hell, im a techie and Windows is my choice of OS - Linux just sucks, it has never felt finished support for hardware is so so and the sheer number of distros that all serve the same purpose but are all different is stupid. Joe public cant deal with command lines, they barely understand double clicking - they certainly wont handle a case sensitive commandline!

    People should have better things to do with their time...

    *I do run an alternative OS on another couple of machines, but that is IRIX and for a specilzed application... and a linux media player - which isnt compatible with the wireless card it shipped with - go figure...

  14. M Gale

    Ooh lovely.

    Now maybe a govt or ten can go after them for threatening shops with hefty fines for not charging the customer for a new Windows installation if the motherboard needs replacing.

    1. sola

      Of course you need to have some knowledge

      If you can't deal with modern Linux distros, you can hardly be called a techie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Funny, I know a lot of Mainframe guys who don't know linux, or Windows, Networking guys who don't really know any OS and I'd still call them all techies.

  15. johnalex


    As it happens I have just bought a 'no operating system' laptop from Novatech (they do no-o/s desktops too -- bought one of those last year). It would have been an extra 80 quid or so to have basic Windows included. On the downside Novatech do not officially support anything other than Windows, though the forums are pretty good with regular postings from Novatech techs.

  16. gautam
    Gates Horns

    Can I Join?

    As EU is supposed to have harmonizing laws, can I join this class action as a European? When EU forced it upon them, they DID agree to have a choice of browsers when first setting up a new machine or re-installing.

    So I guess this suit shoud succeed and we can all rejoice. We just need the choice and clear pricing of windows OS in the overall cost of machines.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Put your money where you mouth is!

    The reason retailers sell machines with Windows installed is because that's what punters want to buy.

    If you think there's a vast untapped market for PCs with no operating system installed, there's no law stopping you setting up in business to sell them.

    Just don't expect to get rich doing so, because despite all the bleating on ElReg, there really isn't that much of a demand. If there was, you could buy one on the High Street already.

  18. gautam

    One more point..

    Cant we have the same laws for mibile phones ? Just imagine, Android on Nokia top range handsets/hardware (eg N97 or no Se Satio) would be super, or even on the Best of Apple hardware.

    Because Samrtphones are almost defacto mini computers.

    How about it ? Now that would be REAL fun and competition.

  19. Dex

    I admit....

    I misread the article, i didn't see the mention of laptops, only desktops but the point remains, if you don't like windows, buy a machine without it or just accept the fact Microsoft will take your money whether you want them too or not.

    <troll> For those that want to switch off when they get home....take your machine to work and stop moaning :-) </troll>

  20. vincent himpe

    it's simple

    You buy a mac, it comes with OsX

    You buy a PC, it comes with Windows

    You buy a server , it comes with Red hat or Windows

    You buy a ford it comes with a ford motor, you buy a peugeot it comes with a peugeot motor and steering wheel. You buy a sony tv it will have a sony user interface. You buy an iphone it will run Ios.

    You wan't anything else ? feel free to buy a motherboard, cpu, case,memory,drive and vidoe card and assembly your rig and install whatever you want (linux, osx,windows, Solaris , beos, iRMX, OS/2, or write your own).

    Got it ? now move on with your life. Thank you.

  21. Homer 1
    Gates Horns

    The point is...

    Regardless of whether or not one can build one's own desktop PC (but not laptops), or get a refund easily, or find some obscure corner of the internet selling a limited selection of lacklustre PCs without Windows, there's an extremely important principle at stake here. PCs should be sold independently of software, and not tied to a single commercial software vendor's products. Not just some small, obscure selection of PCs, but ALL PCs. Tying one vendors products to another, especially on such a vast scale, and to the almost total exclusion of all competing software, is a conspiracy in restraint of trade, and should be actionable under anti-trust regulations.

    If Microsoft is so confident that "everyone demands Windows", then it should have no problem allowing people to chose which, if any, operating system they purchase with the PC and the point of sale. A very small number of OEMs/retailers do (or used to) offer that choice, but the VAST majority do not. They should, and IMO they should be forced to by law. Offer a choice of competing software, or none at all - but don't engage in Microsoft's software racket. Period.

  22. thomas k.

    What about the Apple tax?

    OK, fair enough, but shouldn't this then also apply to Apple computers? There may be some who would like to purchase shiny Apple hardware without OSX on it - shouldn't they be given the same consideration of being offered said shiny hardware without Apple's OS pre-installed?

  23. Simon Hickling

    Even the least techy people don't need windows now

    With most people using web based mail, Facebook, Twitter and moving towards products like Google docs etc. The reliance on the Windows OS is diminishing. You can access these from anywhere. I haven't used the browser based Facebook for ages - I use the mobile client on my "phone". Again I get my mail on my "phone". I use Linux almost exclusively at home and there are few internet based things which I cannot access. I have no need for the Windows only products which seem to be the things of yesteryear. I think Microsoft should be very worried in case the world realises this sometime soon. In my experience of non-techs (family and friends) they use their computers for internet based services, and before long people will see that they do not need the latest quad-core beast to do their shopping, read their e-mail and tweet their latest thought - nor do they NEED windows for that.

  24. Chad H.

    Seems simple

    If the EULA says you can return the software for a refund, and the retailer and MS refuse to refund, then MS have breached the EULA.

    Feel Free to Pirate boys, you're no longer bound.

    (Note, not a laywer).

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      @What about the Apple tax? etc

      You don't really get the idea of a oligopoly do you?

      Apple has a small share of the PC market and they ship their OWN software with it. Same for a number of smart phones, and at least most smart phone manufacturers offer several products with different OSs (Apple an obvious exception, but it is their own software).

      The issue here, for the hard of thinking, is the majority of desk & laptop computing devices are ONLY available with MS Windows. And MS has a long and inglorious history of illegal and immoral business practice in this area.

      I really hope the Italians stick to it, as the UK regulator told me it was not important enough to investigate. As I have already said, why not pay MS at activation time? Solves all of the issues without dropping Joe Public in to OS installation hell, and also could be used to force MS to deal equally with all suppliers, thus eliminating any residual anti-competitive pricing practices.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: it's simple

      Simple, eh? Shame you fail to grasp it, then. Incoming car analogy...

      "You buy a ford it comes with a ford motor, you buy a peugeot it comes with a peugeot motor and steering wheel."

      But you don't get told that you can only fill up at Esso filling stations, can only buy your insurance from AXA (or whatever they're called these days), must only use Michelin tyres, can only have a car stereo from Philips. Much more importantly, you also don't get offered only Ford vehicles by 99% of all car dealerships in existence.

      But hey: with car analogies anyone can play! Even people with no clue about the principles of the actual situation being discussed. Yes, you may move on now.

      1. vincent himpe


        You can get it in any color as long as its black ...

        Ok the car analogy was not good. but my point is that : a run-out-of-the-box Mac comes with OSX , a sun with solaris, an sgi with irix, a pc with windows . An android phone with.. android, a Nokia with symbian , an Iphoone with IOS .

        If you want anything else : up to you but we won't support it.

        ANd there are plenty of companies selling computers without Os. go to any local computer store around the corner and they will happily build you one. Ok the 'big brands' may not have one but that is the case with anything. If campbells doesn't make soup with tofu based 'meatballs' in it you'll have to look for a different brand. Too bad.

        If this flies then soon we will see lawsuits demanding iphones be sold without os so we can install android or windows mobile.

    3. Robert E A Harvey

      Well Perhaps

      But Apple sell complete systems.

      When I buy a laptop from HP or a desktop from Dell I am NOT getting a Dell OS, I am getting one from a different company. And, as has been adequately reported above, if something goes wrong with that OS HP or Dell will shrug their shoulders and say "nothing to do with us". That is NOT what happens with Apple, and so the argument is different.

      If HP or Dell are to give no support, then it seems unreasonable that they should insist you pay the OS tax.

  25. keithpeter

    consider specialist suppliers

    "Everything we sell has been tested to ensure that when you open the box you can be working straight away."

    There used to be as well. Alas, Dale could not make it work. I still use the basic Asus box he sold me every day, 3.5 years now, reboot about once a week or for kernel updates. Its never had windows near the hard drive, works fine with ubuntu LTS with a Scientific Linux 'emergency' partition just in case...

  26. The BigYin

    A simple tale... SO was so hacked off with Windows that she was ready to blow an aneurysm. I had a few Linux kicking about and she liked those. but you can't buy them so she went Apple. In her words "It's not that ****ing sack of **** that is ****ing Windows. **** it with a ****ing ****er of a..." and so on. Even though I would have wiped an MS unit, she did not want £70-odd going to the Evil Empire. So Apple it was. Evil Empire #2!

  27. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I got some cash

    Since some US states (including Iowa) rejected the US Federal judgement against Microsoft (which was almost useless), I got almost $200 back from them, for both illegal bundling and price fixing. 8-)

  28. Anonymous Coward


    I don't think it's possible anymore to get the refund for just the OS - quote from win 7 oem license:

    "By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the

    software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You

    must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the

    entire system on which the software is installed. "

  29. Nick Galloway

    Change vendor...

    What if you wanted a Nokia and didn't want Symbian, or an iPhone and installed Linux over the top?

    I don't fancy your chances on that one. On a different scale, if I bought a laptop, removed the existing RAM and HDD for more RAM and an SDD, is the laptop maker going to give me my money back for these 'surplus' items?

    No. If you buy a machine and it advertises that it is preinstalled with all manner of sotware and you don't want it, don't buy it or negotiate with the hardware manufacturer/sales rep. Obviously the cosa nostra are struggling to cope with Windows 7 and want to know where to put the horses head!!!

  30. Arthur Kater

    Then please also sue Apple

    You buy a computer from brand ABC model XYZ? That computer's specifications include an OS, as it does include a CPU, memory, etc.

    It should be up to the manufacturer to decide if you can change the configuration.

    When I buy a new sedan car, I cannot give back the back seats simply because I like other seats or no seats at all?

    And what about Apple? Apple notebooks run well on Windows or Linux. Would Apple let you buy hardware without their OS?

  31. Richard Lloyd

    You can buy desktops without an OS, but not from the major OEMs

    This issue would be solved if the major OEMs were "allowed" to sell machines with no OS pre-installed. Fear of losing their Windows volume discount from Microsoft keeps them generally in line, but they'd also have to make very clear (every step of the purchasing process on their Web site *and* include a leaflet with the machine) that there is zero OS or software support for a no-OS machine they'd sell.

    I got so frustrated with this that instead of choosing Dell again this time around for a machine I run Linux on but has to be shipped with Windows (Dell's well-hidden Linux offerings are often more expensive or only available on low-end hardware that I don't want), I just bought a new custom-build PC from a fairly well known online vendor *without* an OS pre-installed. This saved me enough money to get a 6-core CPU instead of a quad core, so I'm pleased that I didn't pay the Microsoft tax...

  32. Matt Gerrish

    True Story

    I was in PC World just before Christmas, purchasing a laptop (yes, I know - could've ordered one online. but snow and delivery problems messed that up)

    When I informed the loitering sales gimp that I wanted to purchase *that* laptop, nothing else, that one, he then asked me what I was going to use it for.

    None of his business of course, but I replied "development"

    "Ok" he replied, "would you be wanting an anti virus product ?"

    "No" says I, "I'll be removing Windows and installing Linux"

    Taken aback by this he retorts

    "You mean, you'll be removing Windows ?"

    I respond that indeed, I'll be removing Windows.

    He then proceeds to inform me that by doing this, I'll be voiding the warranty on the laptop. He further goes on to ask me if I wish to have a copy of office, and would I like a years subscription to their 'Tech Guy' service.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The best way to respond to that.. to ask if the "tech guy" is willing to work naked, and does dusting. If not, no sale. Then grin at the sales assistant.

      It usually makes them nervous enough that they are desperate to finish the transaction quickly.

  33. Displacement Activity
    Paris Hilton

    Windows tax: not all it's cracked up to be?

    I've just been through the process of buying a (very) cheap no-windows laptop, so this might be helpful to others. No-windows desktops are, of course, a no-brainer.

    1 - Dell does *not* sell Windows-free laptops, whatever they say. In the UK, it's damn hard to find any link to these products, and the links you may eventually find 404. The US isn't much better - IIRC, only two old and expensive models can be supplied without Windows.

    2 - The main UK suppliers of Windows-free laptops are listed above (primarily eBuyer and Novatech).

    3 - Novatech charges pretty much what you'd expect for Windows on their laptops - about £80 upwards. But, this isn't the full story.

    4 - The base laptops you get from Novatech/eBuyer etc are unbranded. It's next to impossible to find out who actually manufactured them, and what's in them. You can't even get full technical specs.

    5 - Now, here's the surprise - a branded Laptop with Win7 Home Pro on it is only marginally more expensive than the unbranded machines without Windows. I eventually got an Acer Aspire 5551, 2GB, 250GB, plus case, at £280 + VAT (it's £5 cheaper today).

    6 - So, for next to nothing (less than £20?), I got a well-known branded machine with Win7 thrown in. No-brainer. I'm not going to waste time worrying about the possibility that I have dud hardware for £20.

    This is presumably possible for 2 reasons: 1 - branded laptops sell in high volumes, and 2 - crapware. It took me an hour to clean the crapware off, but someone has paid Acer to put this crapware on their computers, and that means that Acer can reduce their prices if they need to.

    So, at the end of the day, the Windows tax is probably much smaller than most people think.

    BTW, I got Ubuntu dual-booting flawlessly with Win7 very quickly. It's surprisingly good but, I think, not ready for prime-time. Another story.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Windows tax: not all it's cracked up to be?

      "This is presumably possible for 2 reasons: 1 - branded laptops sell in high volumes, and 2 - crapware. It took me an hour to clean the crapware off, but someone has paid Acer to put this crapware on their computers, and that means that Acer can reduce their prices if they need to. So, at the end of the day, the Windows tax is probably much smaller than most people think."

      I think you need to re-read what you've written. The Windows tax is what Microsoft ends up getting, regardless of whether anyone wants their stuff. As a cost to the purchaser, it's what you pay on top, which is usually some deflated price Microsoft quotes for an "OEM licence" plus whatever time or money you spend removing the crapware.

      Of course, you could ask Microsoft to buy a "retail licence" at "OEM licence" prices, but then suddenly it's not the same thing at all. The whole situation involves shady practices in every possible relationship - Microsoft/vendor, vendor/purchaser and Microsoft/purchaser - but it's the purchaser that gets the shaft at every turn.

      1. Displacement Activity

        Re: Re: Windows tax: not all it's cracked up to be?

        I don't give a s**t what MS gets. The "Windows Tax" is what *I* pay; that's what I care about. My life is way too short to worry about what MS is making. It's not about what "Microsoft ends up getting"; it's about what *I* end up getting.

        The whole point of my mail was that, for what appears to be about £20, I get the peace of mind of getting branded hardware, which I'd pay anyway. I also get Win7 Home Pro thrown in, should I want to use it.

        Re-read the title. I said it's "not all it's cracked up to be".

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re: Windows tax: not all it's cracked up to be?

          "I don't give a s**t what MS gets."

          It's nice work if you can get it: the ability to impose a tax on 99% of all units sold in a product category.

          "The "Windows Tax" is what *I* pay; that's what I care about."

          Yet you have to pay it whether you already have a copy of Windows lying around or whether you plan on upgrading from the bundled Windows Shit, erm, Starter Edition anyway.

          "It's not about what "Microsoft ends up getting"; it's about what *I* end up getting."

          It's a matter of principle - the former - and about people paying for stuff they don't need - the latter.

          "The whole point of my mail was that, for what appears to be about £20, I get the peace of mind of getting branded hardware, which I'd pay anyway."

          The "branded hardware" has nothing to do with the £20 surcharge.

          "I also get Win7 Home Pro thrown in, should I want to use it."

          Feeling spoiled at that "great deal", eh? Good for you.

          "Re-read the title. I said it's "not all it's cracked up to be"."

          Well, Microsoft have to refund licence costs - that's a condition of the antitrust action against them - so you can pay as much attention to that as you want. Other people are fortunately able to see the bigger picture.

  34. druck Silver badge

    How about an OS ballot screen

    Just as Microsoft was forced by the EU competition regulator to put a ballot screen up for the choice of browser, how about one for choice of OS on a new machine?

    The installation images for Windows and various other OS's can easily be contained on a modern system's hard drive, so the user can pick the one they want, and let it install itself. If you don't choose Windows, you get an automatic refund.

  35. Tom 38 Silver badge

    @'Apple Tax' and other MS apologists

    This isn't like those other cases, for a number of reasons:

    1) MS have a monopoly on bundled OS on IBM compatible PCs.

    2) MS used to insist to OEM manufacturers that they may not sell computers without a bundled OS, as they alleged only use for a computer with no OS is to pirate windows to put on there

    3) Enough legislative bodies noticed this unfair licensing, and insisted that MS either stopped this, or offered a refund for users that did not want Windows.

    4) If users were required to actually buy + install windows, MS feared that this would reduce the number of windows licenses sold, so they implemented this in a way that makes it incredibly hard to actually get a refund.

    The final point is where we are now - MS have stopped their previously devious practices, and started up a whole set of new devious practices.

    The key differences with bundled OS/X is that OS/X is only intended to work on Apple computers, and is an essential component of using an Apple computer. You also cannot buy a license to use OS/X on anything other than an Apple computer.

    Generic PCs are not sold in such a manner (clue is in the name).

    The final analogy, cars, is dealt with in a similar manner. You cannot reasonably buy a Ford, and install a Peugot engine in it - it is beyond the abilities of an average user.

  36. Alistair MacRae

    I still say it's silly.

    I still stand by what I said. If you don't want windows don't buy that machine.

    Google buy "computer without windows" and you'll be able to find one to buy.

    If Dell really is being forced into only distributing its machines with Windows then that is against the law and they'd be delt with. (Mind you they say that's what happend with Dell concerning AMD and Intel)

    And don't say I'm obviously new to the computing world. Maybe in comparison with some of you ancients I am but at 25 and having started with the ZX spectrum and having worked in IT for 7 years I'm not new.

    Windows is fine for the average user.

  37. mhenriday
    Thumb Up

    I hold no brief for the European Commission,

    but I think its Directorate General for Competition did an excellent job with the browser-choice window and I'd very much like to see a similar device made mandatory for operating systems on computers sold to the general public. Retailers could be required to offer purchasers a choice of, say, five different operating systems, and to install the OS chosen as part of the purchase price of the computer, while users desiring a multiple boot could be charged extra fees for the installation of extra OSs. By thus separating the choice of software from the choice of hardware, even ordinary users would hopefully benefit from a certain degree of competition, not least with regard to price, in the event that, for example, Microsoft did not choose to subsidise the installation of its product. If what holds for competiton in other arenas holds true for operating systems as well, such a rule should, moreover, promote the development of better, quicker, less bloated operating systems, to the benefit of all users, no matter which OS they happen to choose, as real competition has demonstrably done in the browser field....


    1. magnetik

      @Alistair MacRae

      25 years old with 7 years of IT "experience"? My aren't you the l33t expert. :-D Maybe you can put some of your mad skillz into practice by Googling for "microsoft convicted monopoly"

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