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Australia charity riled by Gates' 'good will'

The embittered battle between Microsoft and PCs for Kids continues, with the charity outraged over the software giant's self-described gesture of good will.

The embittered battle between Microsoft and PCs for Kids continues, with the charity outraged over the software giant's self-described gesture of good will.

Microsoft released a statement saying it would provide 150 packs of Windows 95 and 10 refurbished computers worth a total of about $33,370 ($65,000 Australian) as a "gesture of good will" to Australian charity organizations--the Rotary Club of Geelong and the Geelong YMCA.

"As the founder of PCs for Kids, I am ashamed at this half-hearted offer by Microsoft," PCs for Kids' Colin Bayes said.

Bayes, angered by the Microsoft's decision, said the company "has offered us zilch, zero. As far as they're concerned, we're going to fold."

Julie Inman, Microsoft's corporate affairs manager, told ZDNet that underprivileged kids in East Timor will receive the technology donation via the Rotary International project, "in association with PCs for Kids."

A spokesperson for the Rotary Club of Geelong, however, expressed concern for the charity's future, saying that Microsoft's technology donation "does not help PCs for Kids at all." PCs for Kids provides the Rotary Club of Geelong with recycled computers for its own charitable work.

The Rotary Club said that although the Microsoft donation will help the club in the short term, it does nothing to support PCs for Kids' long-term charitable work.

Bitter battle
PCs for Kids has been embroiled in a battle with Microsoft over the installation of obsolete operating systems on recycled computers, which it donates to underprivileged kids.

The charity and Microsoft met early last week to discuss a way for the operation to continue its work without infringing copyright laws.

"Given concern about PCs for Kids, we are doing everything to expedite the application process and are hoping to ensure continued support," a Microsoft statement said.

PCs for Kids' application for 2,300 copies of Microsoft's software, valued at more than $205,000, was rebuffed. "We weren't able to help them out in this particular instance. It's quite an extraordinary (request) given that we try to reach a broad range of charities," Inman said.

Bayes says Microsoft's "kind" gesture to donate software to disadvantaged children in East Timor does not solve the copyright issue and has left hundreds of kids on the charity's waiting list without assistance.

PCs for Kids has received international acclaim over its fight for the right to donate computers to needy kids. According to Bayes, even the United Kingdom's prime minister, Tony Blair, has sent the charity a letter outlining his support for its efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Staff writer Megan McAuliffe reported from Australia.