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Field Notes A MARvellous Initiative
Neil Fawcett has been writing and editing in the IT sector for numerous publications for over 20 years. He has also spoken at events and published 13 books on IT-related subjects. Prior to his writing career, Neil worked in Silicon Valley as a software developer and hardware engineer.
© 2008 Microsoft Corporation and CMP Media, LLC. All rights reserved; reproduction in part or in whole without permission is prohibited.
Imagine you have 5,000 PCs in your basement that have been refurbished, and you've got customers already lined up to buy these machines. The hardware has a new lease of life, but the operating system ... well that's an entirely different problem. Is it a legal copy? Does each PC even have an OS? Can you resell it?
The new commercial Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) program has a solution to all these problems. On the surface, this new scheme is a pretty simple concept: help commercial companies take old PCs, install a legal OS, and sell them.
But the MAR program has deeper goals. From a pragmatic perspective, it's a business opportunity for both Microsoft and commercial PC refurbishers. From a legal perspective, it helps avoid software piracy (both accidental and intentional). Environmentally, it keeps still-viable hardware out of landfills. And finally, it creates a conduit by which companies can better understand how licensing inside Microsoft works, especially when dealing with a PC that has passed from one owner to another.
This program is not only beneficial for Microsoft and PC refurbishers. It offers many significant benefits to customers as well: they get a PC that has been professionally data-wiped and preinstalled with a genuine version of Windows® XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional; they have access to downloads, updates, and enhanced features; and they also have access to future releases of Windows. And all this is done on a computer that could so easily have become part of a landfill and yet another statistic in the fight against toxic dumping.
MAR is targeted at companies with a capacity to supply an average of 5,000 refurbished PCs per month, and they must demonstrate a history of refurbishing this number of PCs before they can join the program. MAR is a worldwide program, open to major OEM refurbishers as well as to other refurbishers that qualify and are headquartered in the U.S. or Canada. Three participating refurbishers are Redemtech, Techturn, and Apto Solutions.
The licensing of new software products can sometimes confuse both sellers and buyers, but the refurbished PC market brings a new level of complexity to what you can and can't do with an ageing copy of Windows. MAR slices through this complexity for refubishers. It provides a set of installation tools, including the Refurbisher Preinstallation Kit (RPK), which eases the preinstallation of Windows XP to a diverse base of refurbished PCs. Each license comes with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from Microsoft. If a PC has been refurbished, still has its COA, and the company has the original recovery media or hard disk-based recovery image, then a new Windows license isn't needed. However, MAR is designed to streamline the process if there is no recovery media or image for commercial refurbishers.
The reuse of computers—through donation, refurbishment, or resale—offers tremendous promise for increasing access to technology, especially for people underserved by technology. It also can help limit the growing environmental footprint of the technology industry. In fact, the market in used PCs—referred to as the "secondary PC market"—is already proving instrumental in the spread of technology in many developing economies.
The marketplace for refurbished PCs is growing and predictions indicate that millions of units can avoid landfills if corporations seek out alternatives. MAR performs not only a strategic role within Microsoft, but critically aids large firms in deploying a low-cost hardware solution that provides great benefit to others. With more and more focus on the environmental issues affecting the planet, the proper disposal of PCs has never been more important. Initiatives like the MAR program will add in revitalizing an ageing PC, helping it continue to benefit anyone looking for low-cost technology and keep it away from a toxic landfill. Simply by aiding in the clarification of software licensing, the program goes a long way towards making a refurbished PC more appealing. You can find more information about the MAR program at microsoft.com/oem/mar.