"Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office
productivity software to government employees, but CNET News.com
has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning
recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics
"Since the launch of Office 2003 last year, Microsoft has given
out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software,
which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers.
The giveaway was expanded to government workers this year, but
ethics offices at the Department of the Interior and Department of
Defense have said the offers constitute unauthorized gifts and must
"The issue comes up as many governments are looking at
open-source alternatives for Office and the Windows operating
system. The British government has been evaluating a switch to the
Linux OS, while open-source software is also being eyed in Korea,
China, India and even at some local agencies in the United
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