but they don't sell all their machines as an option to ship without Windows.
Or at least without some
operating system installed.
Getting a rig without an OS is a special order
item for most manufacturers. I can't fault them for that. They need to do something to avoid the inevitable scam play: <*whine*>I don't understand...your ads all say that your machines come with Windows installed...
And then there's that little clause
in the Microsoft OEM licensing contract about accounting & assurance
for what got sold and shipped. Some ways to assure MS they're not giving
copies of Windows away (more on that in a moment) is to:
- Only sell non-OS machines to businesses or institutions - or in bulk
- Not sell machines without an installed OS at all - or -
- Just take the easiest way out and only sell machines with Windows installed.
Since Windows accounts for +90% of all desktops, that third option is the usual policy most OEMs and system aggregators follow.
Regarding the notion of a "free" copy of Windows - there ain't no such thing!
OEMs can say a copy of Windows is "included" in the price. They can say something "comes with" Windows. They can even absorb the cost to keep their selling prices down. But at no time are they allowed to say or imply that the copy of Windows is" free." Microsoft doesn't allow that.
ALL copies of Windows are SOLD. Even the copies Microsoft occasionally gives away get charged to an internal cost center, or to the marketing budget. (Yes, MS "pays" for the copies they use just like everybody else - even if no cash changes hands.) There is no SKU code for free
Windows. And if there is no SKU code - it doesn't exist.
Microsoft does this for two reasons: First, it's to ram home the notion that Windows has monetary value
. Second, it provides a legal theory should they need to go after people who are acquiring copies through unauthorized channels.
DOS was widely bootlegged. And Windows for Workgroups
(along with 95, 98, and 2K despite CD installation keys) was easily found on ten times more machines than the number of copies sold. And so it went until WGA came along and put a stop to casual piracy.
By insisting on getting paid for every copy, and taking reasonable steps to prevent people from illegally installing it through ignorance (i.e. that's the famous "any moron in a hurry" test), they've set the stage to get real protection from the courts. Which you might have noticed Microsoft has gotten since they introduced WGA.
And that's why there is not (and never will be) any such thing as a "free copy of Windows."