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Microsoft Hands Out Free Flash Drives

The "Mystery Solved" site is an attempt to educate users about the intricacies of Microsoft's sometimes-confusing licensing policies.
Microsoft's giving away USB flash drives to users who fill out a simple form on the company's Web site.

The catch? The drive is packed with information about Microsoft's licensing programs.

The "Mystery Solved" site is an attempt to educate users about the intricacies of the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's sometimes-confusing licensing policies. For instance, the site posts the toll-free number customers can call with licensing questions, as well as warnings that copies of Windows provided by OEMs "live and die with each PC; they are not transferable."

Although users need a Passport account to request the free drive, the only other information demanded is a name, shipping address, e-mail address, and telephone number. The offer is good only in the U.S., and is, as the saying goes, "while supplies last."

Microsoft said that the drive -- capacity unspecified -- should arrive in 6 to 8 weeks.

The turn to give-aways is unusual for Microsoft, which has tried virtually everything else to make its licensing palatable. Last September, for instance, it shook up its Software Assurance (SA) program by adding a raft of new benefits as it also gave notice that corporations would have to pony up for SA they wanted the top-of-the-line Windows Vista in 2006.

This week, Microsoft confirmed that Windows Vista Enterprise would be available only to companies with SA or a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement in place.