Friday, September 04, 2009

Microsoft MAR Program

The Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) program takes getting used to. There are many rules and regulations governing the installation of their operating systems, (Windows XP Pro and 2000 Pro) as well as MS Office 2003. A refurbisher may install MS software if the computer is being donated to an “Eligible Recipient” for a cost of $5.00 per Certificate of Authenticity (COA).

Any bona fide Non Governmental Organization (NGO) with a mission benefiting humanity is eligible to receive refurbished computers with Windows installed; however, schools may not receive computers with MS Office 2003 installed as they are supposed to take advantage of Microsoft’s special pricing for educational institutions.

E-quip Africa received an email saying we were in error in donating computers with MS Office installed to Archbishop Nzimbi Secondary School in Kenya and that we needed to respond with a plan in 14 days. After searching their guidelines at length, the fine print which prohibits the donation of Office to schools was at last found. A response was sent saying we would not make this mistake again. After thinking it through a second email was sent which appears in quoted italics below:

Dear MAR Team,

I’ve been thinking about our “situation” of not being able to install MS Office on computers going to K-12 schools in Africa.

I am sure you are aware of huge needs of education in Africa. I have hundreds of photos I could show you of schools in Ghana, which is a fairly well-off country with government support of education at a higher level than many African nations; if you saw these you would realize the huge gap in educational opportunities between us and them!

My question is this: Does Microsoft really think an African public or church school will have any room in their budgets for purchase of multi-license office software? Do you think they even have budgets? If one of your goals is to reduce piracy of MS products, then I suggest you need to reexamine your policy toward educational institutions in third world countries and their procurement of MS Office! I can tell you, you will not sell MS Office licenses in the schools I visit. However, they will be using it. If it doesn’t come “legally” from E-quip Africa, they can and will easily find pirated copies to install. It’s the way the third world works.

That’s the reality of the situation. What advice would you like E-quip Africa to give to the schools we supply with refurbished computers? What can I tell them when they ask about some type of office software? Is there a loop-hole in your policy that I am missing? Or is Microsoft the big ugly giant most of the world believes it to be? (Hey… I don’t think that because I’ve always been treated fairly, honestly and generously by Microsoft, but I don’t need to keep my ear to the ground to hear the complaints.)

Yours truly,
Doug Wilkowske
President E-quip Africa

As Sid Hartman says, “We’ll see what happens.”


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