Microsoft ends government giveaways

Microsoft Corp. officials say they will evaluate the result of a promotional marketing campaign that ended earlier this week after the company mailed free Office Professional 2003 and Office OneNote 003 software to commercial and government clients.

The marketing effort resulted in a Feb. 19 Army letter to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates telling him that the company should stop sending the products to service employees.

"We are asking that you cease any further mailing of free software to all employees and soldiers, as such gestures are considered, from an ethical perspective, inappropriate gifts which our personnel are prohibited from sending," said Matt Reres, the Army's deputy general counsel for ethics and fiscal, in the letter.

Top Army employees and soldiers in late January and early February started receiving the software, which the service estimated at a retail value of $600. Service officials requested a legal and ethical review of the matter, Army spokeswoman Margaret McBride said March 11 in an e-mail.

Microsoft officials described the marketing effort as a "first-time seeding campaign" and now will assess user feedback. The company, located in Redmond, Wash., sent the two products to commercial and government customers for evaluation, said Keith Hodson, a Microsoft spokesman.

Microsoft officials included a notice with the products. "Government entities: Microsoft intends that this product be used in accordance with applicable laws and regulations for the evaluation, use and benefit of your government agency only," the notice states. "You may, at your discretion, return this product to Microsoft at its expense."

Office Professional 2003 includes Word, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation software. Office OneNote 2003 lets businesses take, organize and share customer notes and records.

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