Software Switcheroo

Jason Romney wanted to be an early adopter of Apple's much heralded new operating system, Mac OS X. So in early May, Romney went to the Utah State University bookstore in Logan, Utah, and bought himself a copy--or so he thought.

Opening the box, Romney saw Apple's now-familiar white CD with the big aqua X . He popped it into his drive and got ready to experience the power of Unix combined with the ease of Mac OS. There was just one problem--instead of identifying itself as an OS X installation, the icon on Romney's desktop claimed to represent an entirely different application.

Office 10.

Romney's OS X CD-ROM was, in fact, Microsoft Office XP for Windows. Romney had become the proud owner of a useless Office XP disc chock-full of .exe files but with nary an Aqua-colored operating system to be found.

When Romney called AppleCare, the company promised him another disc but was at a loss to tell him what to do with his copy of the OS X--actually XP--CD. Nor could Romney even use his unwanted Windows application: without a CD key to unlock the XP installer, his copy of Office wouldn't install even on a Pentium machine.

Romney tried selling it online, but eBay pulled the auction at Microsoft's request. And Microsoft still sent Romney an e-mail demanding that the CD be pulled from the auction site: "Because the software program contained on the disc is Microsoft's protected intellectual property, its redistribution is an infringement of Microsoft's rights." But the Redmond colossus did note that "there may be opportunities to exchange this component for software which would be of more use to you."

Romney has received a real OS X CD from Apple. As for how Office XP wound up on an OS X disc, neither Apple nor Microsoft can offer an explanation. Both companies have their CDs pressed at the same Zomax facility, and Microsoft attributes the blunder to "a mistake" at the plant. At press time, Romney still had his mislabeled copy of XP, having received nothing useful from Microsoft in exchange.

Then again, there are Windows users who might say the same thing.

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