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Microsoft reaches limit on Vista, Office giveaway

Offer quickly draws 30,000 IT pros, but free software could leave them with a tax bill.

It sounded like a scam: visit this Web site, watch a few videos and get a free copy of Windows Vista or Office 2007.

Actually, the site was a legitimate Microsoft-run site. Aimed at software developers and architects, the site offered free copies of both titles to those who watched at least three Web-based seminars on each of the new products.

Unfortunately, for those looking to score their free copy, Microsoft said that it has already received sign-ups from the 30,000 people it had hoped to register for the program. The site now says "sold out" when people come to register for the giveaway.

Those left out in the cold can take some solace. At least they don't have to pay taxes. Those who are getting both the free Office and Vista copies will have to fill out an IRS tax form--and eventually pay Uncle Sam--to get both titles.

"Since the combined retail value of the products is above $600 retail for developers who chose to participate in both offers, the IRS requires Microsoft to have the developers send back a signed W9 form before they receive the second item," a Microsoft representative said.

The site also warns government employees that they should consult their ethics policies before accepting the freebies. Microsoft drew the ire of the Army and some other U.S. agencies in 2004 when it sent free copies of Office to federal workers.

Microsoft started selling Office 2007 and Vista to businesses this week, however the software won't be on retail shelves and new PCs until January.