Italy kills the Microsoft tax

27 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Italy kills the Microsoft tax.

This year, Halloween will be scarier than usual for PC fans. The Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) has ended the concept of the Microsoft tax which was a commercial practice that discourages users from converting their PCs to GNU/Linux or other free operating systems by forcing them to pay for a Windows license with their PCs.I am quite sure that purchasing a desktop computer or a notebook can be considered to be a rite of passage for some, especially when one has extremely limited monetary resources to fall back upon.In late 2005, an Italian citizen named Marco Pieraccioli, who had just bought a Windows laptop from Hewlett-Packard, took the then world’s leading PC vendor to court after the latter refused to issue a refund for the accompanying Windows XP Home Edition license that he had no need of. Friday, October 31 is the final day that Microsoft will sell Windows 7 licenses to PC makers (OEMs in industry parlance), per Microsoft’s lifecycle fact sheet.

Having said that, for those who have grown up with Windows all their lives, chances are your purchases would have come with a (legit) copy of Windows pre-installed. PCs with Windows 7 Professional will continue to be produced for businesses, as well as anyone else willing to pay a premium for the deluxe model of Windows 7. In its judgement, hailed as “a victory for free software over the ‘Microsoft tax’” by Pieraccioli’s lawyer, the apex court has lambasted this practice among PC vendors of refusing to refund the price of a pre-installed operating system to those who wish to return such software, saying that it is at odds with “the rules that protect the freedom of choice of the consumer, and the freedom of competition among firms…” As far as the first freedom adverted to in the above paragraph is concerned, this current ruling, says Marco Ciurcina, a lawyer who helped Pieraccioli with his case, follows the precedent set by French courts, but the bit about this practice violating freedom of competition is “interesting considering that, to date, the antitrust authorities have done little against business practices that ‘force’ the joint sale of hardware and proprietary software.” Perhaps equally interesting is the fact that this judgement isn’t restricted to Windows PCs but applies to any computer that ships with a pre-installed OS. Here’s how Ciurcina summed up the rationale behind the ruling in a recent blog post for the Free Software Foundation: “The focus of the Court’s reasoning is that the sale of a PC with software preinstalled is not like the sale of a car with its components (the 4 wheels, the engine, etc.) that therefore are sold jointly. Why this matters: With its heavy emphasis on the Start screen, touch interaction, and the new Modern UI, many longtime desktop users—not to mention IT departments—were reluctant to move to Windows 8.1.

Therefore, switching to GNU/Linux offers an opportunity for the secondary benefit of saving money. “Anyone who buys a computer on which a given operational software (operating system) was preinstalled by the manufacturer has the right, if he does not agree to the conditions of the license of the software made available to him at first start of the computer, to retain the computer returning only the software covered by the license he did not accept, with refund of the part of the price that specifically relates to it,” the ruling says. Buying a computer with preinstalled software, the user is required to conclude two different contracts: the first, when he buys the computer; the second, when he turns on the computer for the first time and he is required to accept or not the license terms of the preinstalled software. Businesses with managed IT departments have little interest in Windows 8, and are waiting for Windows 10, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told PCWorld. Taxes and computers – this is certainly an interesting ground to tread upon, such as the Hungarian government looking into the possibility of taxing Internet data transfers. How long that will last depends on how many Windows 7 PCs retailers are willing to keep in stock—and how many computers OEMs are able to pump out before Friday.

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