Aussie charity tells Bill to 'get real'

The embittered battle between Microsoft and PCs for Kids continues, with the charity outraged over the software giant's so-called "gesture of good will"
Written by Megan McAuliffe, Contributor on

Microsoft has released a statement saying it will provide 150 packs of Windows 95 and 10 refurbished computers worth a total of AU$65,000 (US$33,201) as a "gesture of goodwill" to Australian charity organisations -- the Rotary Club of Geelong and the Geelong YMCA.

"As the founder of PC's for Kids I am ashamed at this half-hearted offer by Microsoft...," PCs for Kids owner Colin Bayes said.

Bayes, angered by the software giant's decision, said, "Microsoft has offered us zilch, zero. As far as they're concerned, we're going to fold."

Microsoft's corporate affairs manager Julie Inman told ZDNet that under-privileged kids in East Timor would receive the technology donation via the Rotary International project, "in association with PCs for Kids".

A spokesperson for the Rotary Club of Geelong, however, expressed concern for the charity's future, saying the software giant's technology donation "does not help PCs for Kids at all".

PCs for Kids provides the Rotary Club of Geelong with recycled computers for its own charitable work.

Rotary says that while the Microsoft donation will help the Club in the short term, it does nothing to support PCs for Kids' long-term charitable work.

"Really the work is done by PCs for Kids. If Microsoft wanted to benefit them they would've been better to give it to them...If in the long term their aim is to shut him down, they might achieve it," the spokesperson said.

PCs for Kids has been embroiled in a battle with Microsoft over the installation of obsolete Operating Systems on recycled computers, which it donates to underprivileged kids.

The charity and Microsoft met early last week to discuss a way for the operation to continue its work without impeding on copyright laws.

"Given concern about PCs for Kids, we are doing everything to expedite the application process and are hoping to ensure continued support," a Microsoft statement said.

PCs for Kids' application for 2,300 copies of Microsoft's software valued at over AU$400,000 (US$204,315) was knocked back. Inman says, "we weren't able to help them out in this particular instance, it's quite an extraordinary ask given that we try to reach a broad range of charities."

Bayes says Microsoft's "kind" gesture to donate software to disadvantaged children in East Timor does not solve the copyright issue and has left hundreds of kids on the charity's waiting list without assistance.

PCs for Kids has received international acclaim over its fight for the right to donate computers to needy kids.

According to Bayes, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has even sent the charity a letter outlining his support for its efforts in bridging the digital divide.

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