May 02, 2001, 7:40 PM —
Are you as amused as I am by the story of Microsoft asking its customers to rat out their customers? The story, titled "Microsoft: Prizes for Rat Finks," has been circulating for a few days now. It first surfaced on the Website of Automation Access, a California-based systems integrator. The story includes the full text of a letter Microsoft sent to systems builders via email the last week of April. Although other reputable news agencies such as Information Week and the Wall Street Journal have reported the story since, and cute as the story is, I smell a rat. (See Resources for links to these articles.)
The Microsoft letter offers the systems builders prizes for reporting the identity of businesses that request bids for systems without Windows installed. But the prizes aren't automatically awarded. To earn points toward winning the prizes, you have to be the first to report a particular business to Microsoft. Further, the firm you report must be ordering "naked PCs" because it thinks that its site license with Microsoft covers the new systems. If both conditions are met, then you are awarded one point for each system requested in the bid.
But wait, there's more
And what are the prizes you can win? For 250 points, you get five Microsoft games. Honest. I'm not making this up. For 500 points, you get the games plus a watch. The grand prize, for only 1,000 points, is all of the above plus a barbeque grill and a travel chair. Retail values of these items are not available, however it does appear that Microsoft has spared itself as much expense as possible.