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New Yorker Accidentally Gets $1M WebTV Prototype 225

An anonymous reader sent us to a story that chats about a shipping error causing a million dollar WebTV prototype to get shipped to a NY Bank employee. The creepy part is that the NYPD apparently tracked the package down. I guess I should be thankful the HPD isn't knocking on my door asking about that crate of Transmeta CPUs that somehow got shipped here by mistake last week.
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New Yorker Accidentally Gets $1M WinTV Prototype

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  • Then again, if I did read the comment wrong, then maybe it was referring to the fact that the NYPD was called in at all to recover MS property, that was incorrectly mailed to the wrong address ... which is certainly not a crime by any definition of the word.

    It is referring to what you are talking about in this statement, but WHY did the NYPD have to retrieve the package? Who payed for this? The taxpayers of New York? If so, that is DEFINATELY a crime. And don't tell me "oh you think its a crime just because it is micros~1" because if redhat were to the same thing and I were a tax payer in New York, I would be just as angry.

  • A couple of forgetful acquaintances of mine would reluctantly disagree with that statement...
  • My parents had a Dodge Aspen with a prototype carb. They didn't want it back and it was not repariable at all. It turned out to be a real mess.
  • If they couldn't replace it for under $1000 they I gess they do hardware the same way they do software. Prototype hardware tends to have problems leaking blue smoke. Problems between poor visa in the ground plane, 3V and 5V mixed parts and parts in the wrong way (with most surface mount parts there are heaps of ways to put them on wrong). I would be supprised if they didn't have at least 10 (or more like 100) of the PC boards already. Same with custom parts. Software is a matter of another flash rom. But it is M$ where talking about so it could be the only one. I wonder if the NYPD will press charges about false police reports or did they make a deal for N copies of office????

  • heres my email to john about this situation so he can print it with the really cool column hes gonna write. (Im not real smert so i cant find his email address)

    Hey John!

    Yrr sure right, it's reel bad that microsoft can imfluence the government this way. Heck if i had lots of money like that evil billy i sur wouldnt try telling the police to find a verry expensive prototype of somethin i lost no i wouldnt. I also agree wit ya that microsoft is to big and is bad for us all because theyr bad people and big companys are bad for us because theyr bad and stuff. Oh one more thing i wanted to tell you that i think it would be bad if some high school nerds that play doom and quake and stuff went and worked for microsoft because then microsoft would be relly bad and try to kill people but it wouldnt be our fault it would be because of all those bad teachers that dont like nerds that play doom and think that theyre all murderers and stuff. I almost forgot i gotta say another thing here. thanks a lot for those cool hellmouth articles thet ya rote for us here at slashdot they were relly cool and i learned a lot about how bad people are now and how its the fault of those bad teachers that dont like us nerds because we play quake and doom and stuff.

    your friend,

  • At first read, this whole story sounds like an Urban Legend. Million-dollar piece of equipment turns up in NYC, so NYC's Finest tracks it down, breaks down the door & takes it back. They even manage to track it down to recipient's father's apartment, where they brought the missing equipment only a few moments before.

    The only thing that kept me from entirely dismissing this story was the fact they had a name for the recipient. And that fact made me wonder what the WHOLE story was.

    And now that RedX has uncovered it, & shared the link to it with us, case closed.

    Boy, what Urban Legend will next appear about Microsoft? Will we hear about a certain video tape BillG & his wife made turning up at a Redmond Blockbuster? Perhaps it will recount how the Mrs brought Billg to, uh, a successful compile by reciting the SAT scores of female Microsoft employees? ;-)

  • And that's why they needed the police in this case - not to ensure that they got back the $1M prototype, but to make sure the guy took delivery of his WebTV system without incident.
  • As for the presence of the cops, that's probably just standard procedure when valuable deliveries go astray. It's wildly inappropriate here, but think about what's usually involved in megadollar value shipments. It's not unreasonable for the cops to wonder if there's a connection between the carrier, the recepient, and the missing diamonds.

    That's a reasonable hypothesis. The conspiracy theorizing about this is more than a little silly. The article doesn't even establish that it was Microsoft that called the police. It could just as easily have been UPS involving the police only because of the high value of the item and the risk of having someone try to intercept it for corporate espionage or whatever. As for no crime having been committed, dealing with criminals isn't the only thing police do. They are sometimes present only to prevent trouble. No one said they were there to arrest anyone, or that they entered illegally, or did anything else improper. It seems that some folks have already decided that anything involving MS or police MUST be a conspiracy, and search for anything that can support that view no matter how far fetched.

    .If some other more suspicious info is revealed, I might change my mind. But given only the info in the article, any suspicion of wrong doing is unfounded, and the tail end of the article is just moronic.

  • Coincidence? I think not. Sounds like M$ are "innovating" their way into a sweeter deal.

    The guy's father's name was Samuel Posner and he lived in New York not Chicago. You should really do some rudimentay research before inventing implausible conspiracy theories.
  • Are you for real? The article quotes at least three people: Posner, a named NYPD spokesman and a named MS spokesperson. Granted, the NY Times occasionlly makes a factual error, but they do not make up stories from whole cloth.

    Yes, some people celebrate Hannukah by exchanging presents. I've known women who have been confined to bed for weeks before delivery. There are many reasons why. There are also reasons why ordinary people are leery of opening their door to the police. I am also quite willing to believe that MS told the NYPD that it was worth $1 million in order to recover it whether or not you accept that valution.

    A little healthy skepticism is a good thing, just don't overdo it.
  • *sigh*

    The law the first poster cited limit the enforceability of certain types of contracts *only*. IIRC, these laws were prompted, in large part, by banks sending unsolicited *credit cards* back when credit cards were rare and many people didn't realize the consequences of using that little piece of plastic. (At least when debit cards were introduced people knew that they had to pay the bill *sometime*, although many people didn't realize just how quickly that bill came due.)

    To say there were a lot of problems is putting it mildly. It got so bad that the government eventually had to go in and wipe the slate clean by declaring all such contracts unenforceable. A secondary effect was wiping out responsibility for unsolicited merchandise, but few people would equate a $5 tie and a $1000 VISA bill.

    As to your points, the law (and our society) recognizes that mistakes happen *and it's incumbent upon each of us to minimize the damages*. This obligation isn't unlimited, but it is proportional to both the value and your ability to undo the damage. You might have a hard time finding a law that states this explicitly, but you'll have a much harder time finding a prosecutor, judge and jury that have even a sliver of compassion for your argument.

  • Even more interesting, as the author noted, was how Micros~1 managed to get the NYPD to knock on this guy's door to retreive the package even 'though no crime was committed. Do they really have that much clout? God help us all if so :)

    The news report I read (and let us keep in mind that the above-linked article is not a news report) said that fould play *was* suspected, that someone may have deliberately relabeled the box in order to steal it. Even if they have eliminated that possibliltiy now, it was clearly a possibility at the time, and thus the involvement of the NYPD in securing what might have been stolen property was entirely proper. Of course, one could suppose that MS knew from the beginning that there was no crime involved, and made it appear that a crime was involved in order to get the NYPD's help, but there's no indication of inappropriate behavior on the NYPD's end. In other words, they don't have to definitively establish that a crime was committed before they start helping recover the missing item- they are, after all, an investigative body as well as a law-enforcement organization.

  • How well does it survive decelleration trauma? Say, from a 5 story building. Anyone wanna do the math?

  • This sounds like a modern day recasting of the old urban legend--fancy new prototype.

    Yeah, but wouldn't it be the legendary "fast and stable Windows NT" from the Rare Glitch Project []?

    Jay (=
  • Microsoft is the largest company in the world

    Er, no. Largest software company, maybe. IBM was bigger, last I heard.

  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:32AM (#1458767) Homepage
    Do we have any true confirmation, or is this just more word of mouth stuff? I mean, there are a lot of more plausible sounding urban legends on this site [].

    Let's analyse this: Big corporation X, which many people don't understand, and has been recently confirmed to have been doing evil things, has an employee, who accidently sends package Y, which is worth 1,000,000 dollars. This person, Z, who is a complete innocent just trying to get his fair share from company X is shocked/scared/suprised as company X brings in the [Mafia|Police|Military] to get back its 1,000,000 dollars package. Lesson to be learned: really don't trust those large corporations, because they're all evil and secretly control the government.

    " Has the NYPD now been reduced to foot soldiers that serve to correct simple clerical errors on behalf of corporate America? "
    I don't know. I'd want a signed letter, compelete with a few forms of ID, from this Scott Posner fellow before I'd believe any of this in the slightest. This is an NT security rag^H^H^Hmag...
  • OK, maybe this is a non-anti-Microsoft post. Should be interesting.

    Most people seem to be taking issue with the fact that the NYPD was called in to track down the prototype. This seemed like a Bad Thing/Big Brother/Corporation-Gov't conspiracy at first, I must admit.

    But now that I've been thinking about it, maybe we're all succuming to a knee-jerk reaction here. Suppose Ford "accidentally" shipped their 2001 concept car prototype to Joe Bob in Topeka.

    After the initial panic attack at Ford Corporate settled down, they'd look for the absolute fastest way to get that thing out of the open. Call the police, explain the situation. Then call the police commissioner, explain the situation. Then call the mayor, explain the situation.

    In short, I think the inherent value of the box (well, its value to Microsoft) may justify the use of the police. As someone else posted, it isn't fair the the NY taxpayers picked up the tab, but those are the breaks. Capitalism sucks, but it's better than anything else.


  • It sounds like the guy expected the shipment of a web tv, he just happened to get the prototype instead of the regular shipping version. So I don't suppose he could have kept it w/o paying for it. Perhaps he was entitled to pay $300 for a $1M piece of equipment, though.

    He probably had no idea it was a prototype, and his dad probably couln't have cared any less one way or the other.

  • I suspect we're not getting the full story; if this is a legit story, then I would have to say that one of the following must be true:

    (a) The secretary who "accidentally" sent the prototype did so intentionally, and the person it was sent to was suspected of being in cahoots.

    (c) The secretary intentionally sent the prototype to that address, and then forwarded the address to whomever she was secretly working for. They went and picked it up wearing NYPD uniforms.

    (c) Microsoft got a discount on some NYPD costumes from a local custome shop.

    (d) One helluva bribe must've changed hands.

    Anyone have any other ideas..?

  • Did anyone cache the story? I cannot read the original story.

    Is there any site that tends to see these stories and cache them before us raveous hordes descend from slashdot?
  • I'm constantly and pleasantly surprised at how often valid criticism of things that slashdotters hold dear is moderated up.

    Check out Tom Christiansen's fine posts, for example.

    I think the people here are pretty "Open" minded. :-)

    -Jordan Henderson

  • under certain situations if something like this

    happens you can keep it.

    its toally screwed up that the nypd would be
    nvolved with this.

    they are such stupid lazy asses.
  • Yea if it's sent by mistake, but reading all the coverage I think M/S were assuming it was sent out to someone on *purpose*, i.e. someone inside was sending trade secrets outside. Now if they had that view, then of course it's illegal.

  • Well, yeah, the street value is a couple of hundred. But it does have VALUE. I meant someone could simply keep it to piss them off... I don't know. I certainly didn't interpret it as the one-chance to destroy microsoft packaged along with completely non-recoverable research documents that you seem to have implied as what I was saying.

    I wouldn't expect it to go on ebay (but I'd love to see it) And from their point of view, it's simpler to keep someone from ever getting ahold of it than to go "Oops, that set-top box you are using is actually a prototype, even though it doesn't look special or any different than a working box. We want it back."

    -Mr Spatula

  • i remain dubious over the assertion that this chain of events actually occurred. could anyone possibly confirm this with another source? preferably, a *reliable* source...

    as far as them losing $1 million in R&D, i believe that if the merchandise had been shipped to a competitor (impossible since microsoft would've bought them out anyway) and that 'competitor' managed to reverse engineer the device to determine how it was created, then and only then would it have been a possibility. obviously some old guy is not about to sac bill gates and all he's worth by plugging in some new prototype webtv unit into the back of his television set.

    *my 2 cents*
    -raj jr
  • i That's fire department, not police

    Didn't you ever see Police Academy? :)
  • The funny thing is, according to the NY Times article the pregnant Mrs. Posner also thought this was some sort of Urban Legend hoax being played on her. Undercover cops trying to get an evil multibillion dollar company's $1 million device from an unsuspecting bed-ridden, pregnant woman? Sounds like the plot for a sequel to "Enemy of the State." I bet already has this one patented.
  • FWIW I agree with your point that its over-reacting to see this as some sort of evidence of evil forces at work.


    I noticed that you are being moderated UP not down. How could that be if /. is so full of the narrow-mindedness that you imply? Why is it that just because SOME of the louder voices here are narrow minded, do you narrow-mindedly assume that ALL or even MOST are?

    , >but who really needs positive karma in a microcosm full of minds that run the gamut from >"closed" to "empty

    I mean you are here, are you in that range of minds or an open thinking mind? You are getting positive karma because you had something intelligent to say, but the sarcasm wasn't necessary, and frankly it detracts from your otherwise excellent statement.

    I am not attacking you viewpoint, but I am criticizing your tone.

    The fact is that many readers of /. are NOT narrow minded M$ bashers/linux flag wavers. I happen to use both Microsoft products AND linux, and I use the ones for what I feel is the best use for each. I don't preach my usage, or bash others' views. Yes, Slashdot can be linux-centric but its a mistake to think that everyone here shares the same viewpoint.

    I would be willing to bet that amongst the many many readers/posters at Slashdot you will find every major OS, Programming language, and machine architecture represented and advocated, along with countless smaller ones.

    I continue to read and post at /. because I like the up-to-date news and the varying viewpoints, both good and bad. I don't always agree, and other times I agree wholeheartedly, and not just with those with whom I am politically, morally, OSedly, and Languagedly aligned, sometimes I disagree, but it makes me think deeper on the subject. That is why I come here, to stimulate my brain, and try to keep current with what's going on. I think that maybe you do to, or you wouldn't be showing your frustration with the admittedly narrow-minded approach of some of /.'s citizens.

    Don't drop yourself down to the level of the thoughtless posters that annoy you by shotgunning mud over the entire readership. Your insights show that you are above that.


  • Well, it is hard to tell cluelessness from subtle irony sometimes. Just pass me another egg nog and I'll try to relay. Don't skimp on the rum. Cheers!
  • Is anyone familiar enough with the New York penal code to determine why the police would personally go to this man's house for the "unit" (wink wink nudge nudge)?
    I just want to know so I can accidentally send Gulianni some flowers and get the cops to go get them back for me.
  • I don't see any major news magazines reporting this. I don't see even any thing to back this up like a comment from WebTV or Microsoft or the people involved. How do we know that this web site didn't just post something they heard with no factual double checking as reporters are suppose to do. This is one of my main complaints about the internet is that anyone can make a web page and post any information they want, but it doesn't make it true.
    Any confirmation to this story at all???
  • New York Parcel Delivery?


  • by tomson ( 100060 )
    We can all have a great laugh of this, but I guess the real news is at the bottom of the article..

    It was microsoft's fault, so they have to fix it. Did they pay NYPD for this, or did the people of New York pay for this..
  • Here it is: lection=question

    Believed to be False:
    Major firms/gov't suppress evidence of a super great product(car, light,etc.) ["The Economical Car" in TVH and CBA]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know this doesn't help me validity being anonymous, but I didn't want to bother logging in to post this. I cannot speak for the state of NY but in the state of MA where I live if something you did not order is shipped to your house you can keep it. No charge, no police, nada. SO if this unit was shipped in MA the person would both have the right to keep it and demand the correct unit. This law is in place so customers don't get scammed by companies trying to sell product using this method aka pay XYZ amount now, or if your not happy just ship it back (at your expense). Of course you can sign contracts with companys to change this (Look at the CD clubs for example.) but this man did not and probably had the right to keep it. Of course like the article mentioned why were the police involved, as there were no criminal charges . If you accidently mailed a X-mas gift to the wrong address you damn well would not get the police to help you retrieve it. I'll let you ponder that, but heres a hint read 1984 and understand what the government really is. Oh well, after that comment you'll probably write me off as a looney so I'll end it here. - Killjoy
  • If I had received it, I wouldn't want M$'s prototype either. Too big for a doorstop, too heavy for a bookend, and too dorky to use. But I wouldn't give it back, just to keep them worried ;-)
  • Pretty good question at the end of the article. Just how did the NYPD get called in for a clerical error?

    It would seem that a better solution might have been for MS to send an employee from a nearby office (they must have a New York office), explain the situation and then give him a new unit and perhaps a couple of free months for the hassle.

    The again would YOU open your door to some stranger claiming to be from MS? and if you happened to be a gun nut... (er collector)

  • ... and I'm hearing what youre saying. by "full of [closed and empty minds]" I didn't mean to imply everyone was stupid or closed minded - I meant full as in "this store is full of groceries"; obviously it's not FULL, but there certainly are a lot of groceries.

    likewise, by calling this story classic slashdot anti-microsoft conspiracy trash, I didn't mean everything on slashdot is trash, because it isnt. I just meant that there exists here a large amount of antimicrosoft conspiracy trash, and this is some of it.

    I realize theres interesting stuff/people here, and obviously thats why I read here and post occasionally. I said what I said so that people would know that I'm against what I was replying to.

    Personally I';m surprised I'm being moderated up; more proof that those who are smart enough to realize that what they are saying is inflammatory are smart enough to put some comment into their flames. :D

    I dunno, critisize my tone if you like, I'm a big boy and I can take it. I just thought I'd clarify my tone because I think you think I'm (slightly) more of an ass than I actually am. heh.

    best to you too, vin
  • Ah, but I guess this guy was just too honest.

    Didn't the article mention that he hadn't even opened the package yet?

  • Actually, would it be illegal for him to sell it to one of Microsoft's competitors?
  • Yeah...

    If I had a prototype worth $1M, I wouldn't send it via UPS or what have you. If I could make a $1M prototype, I'm pretty sure I could afford to have someone drive it to its destination.

    Sounds pretty fishy to me.
  • But aren't the big companies what make New York the Centre Of The Universe (TM)?

    It probably is more important for the mayor to suck up to these big companies, after all these companies hire a lot of New Yorkers, and are a big draw for people to come to New York.

    Besides which, with all the "cleaning up" that Guiliani has done, there can't be as much work for the cops there anyways :)

  • This sounds like a modern day recasting of the old urban legend--fancy new prototype. I can't follow the link right now (/. effect?) so I can't check the details, so I'm not asserting that this must be false. But you might want to flip your BS radar up on this one, until someone gets independent confirmation


  • Wouldn't it be scary if Microsoft actually cared about public perception and handled situations like this a little better from a PR standpoint?

    One scenario could have been microsoft special agent (and bodyguards :) show up at this old dood's house and give him a new gateway computer (+ tons of free microsuck products and 3 year's free subscription to MSN?) how much would that cost compared to the PR they would get in return for it? That kinda positive spin on the screwup would have been priceless! i wonder if microsoft is hiring?

  • You too can have fun and make money at the same tiem by shipping out company property.

    Seriously, there are real thefts attempted this way.

  • I disagree with the NYPD being involved, but I think there may have been a fear of a situation developing in which whoever recieved the package wanting to hang on to it, once the value was realized. A good majority of people who use WebTV units probably wouldn't know the difference, however.
  • You know, I was actually thinking about getting my parents a WebTV system for Christmas. I'm suddenly very glad I got them a DVD player instead. ;-)
  • i used to think everyone hated gates because he was greedy and a thief and quite possibly a tyrant bent on world domination.... i however had no idea that he has succeeded in controlling everything that is including metro police departments....good Lord the coming of the White is upon us all remember the face of your fathers Stand and be True.
  • Next time you receive such a package, just forward it to any electronics firm in Asia. LOL
  • Idiot! Yo-yo Ma is a man, not a woman. God damn peon.

  • I don't agree, this is also not an issue of unsolicited goods, firstly this guy appears to have ordered WebTV box and a WebTV box was delivered. To all intensive purposes this guy got what he ordered; that the box was a prototype is immaterial to him.

    If Microsoft wanted the box back it becomes a civil dispute not a criminal one. It's completely overkill to send the Police. IMB It's borderline Police harassment, combined this with the fact he's apparently a Banker, his honesty and integrity need to be beyond reproach, I think he's got a pretty good case for defamation of character. OTOH, he bough Microsoft so he probably got what he deserved:)

    However the Police are not supposed to be corporate lackeys, they are here to protect people from crime, not enforcing questionable civil disputes. IMHO the Guy should sue, probably both the NYPD and Microsoft, he's certainly got a stronger case than moron's who don't know coffee is hot.
  • Troll my ass! What is this, from moderators who also can't freakin' spell? Sorry, it DOES make a difference, and it IS a legitimate criticism.
  • Except, of course, that Microsoft was not giving him a gift. Microsoft was selling him a product. Admittedly, there are still parallels. If I go to a restaurant and order a cup of coffee, and a waiter mistakenly places a fine steak dinner on my table, am I legally entitled to that fine steak dinner? If I am trying to buy a hot dog from a friendly hot dog vendor, and as I hand him my $20 bill, a strong gust of wind blows it into the hat of a nearby performance artist, is it now his $20 bill?

    The idea is that you don't own something just because it was delivered to your house. You own something because its ownership was transfered to you. If you hand me an item, that does not necessarily mean it is a gift. I've valet parked my car quite a bit, and every time I've gotten it back. I've handed a $20 bill to a guy to pay for a $.33 candy bar once, and he handed me back more than $19! I didn't even have to call the cops.
  • >>and his wife, who is seven months pregnant and >>confined to bed, "
    >Why on Earth is a seven month pregnant woman >confined to bed? 6 months is when it starts to >show, and the women are quite capable of moving >under their own power even 9 months pregnant and >overdue.

    Previous history of loss is one reason. Also, being at high risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure, twins, family history) may cause some physicians to play it safe. That's what happened when my wife had to stop working at 6 months.

    All worked out for the best: We have 2 2 month old boys now.
  • You definetly make a point, but..
    The guy that the box was shipped to had nothing to do with the mishap. If he was, they'd be pressing charges.
    Even if he was involved, MS shouldn't be allowed to call the cops and get action on a whim. He didn't do anything, he shouldn't have the cops at his house. UPS maybe, but not the cops.
  • Yeah, you can. Ship it accidentally to some of the other posters on this list, then try to get it back. Indeed, based on some comments, if you drive it on a city street, and the city decides to retain ownership, they can.
  • Did you really believe I was serious, or am I being foolish believing that you are? Yeah, Microsoft really is going to bribe a high profile judge with a prototype WebTV device to try and gain favour in the upcoming negotiations. It sounds more like a story you would read in The Onion.
  • Mayor Guiliani is pretty damn good at catering to just about anyone at the expense of normal citizens. In just the few months or so, he's screwed over the homeless, Transit Workers [], British artists @ the brooklyn museum of art, and certainly others that I can't think of right now.
  • I've heard about this law (and I read all of the sub-threads here clarifying it) regarding mail-order purchases, but what about direct purchases in a store?

    Several years ago, I purchased a video card in a store in Silicon Valley. It looked like what I purchased, but in fact, had much higher spec memory than it the product that I meant to purchase (and thus was meant to have been sold at a much higher price). The store called me several days later, explained the mix up and asked me to return the item in exchange for the lower spec item that I meant to purchase. I did, of course, return it and received the slower cheaper version, but I often wondered if I needed to.

    If you purchase something in a store, leave the store, and they find out that they sold you a more expensive item at a much lower price, are you obligated to return it if they request you to?
  • Usually they inflate the costs of these things if they're trying to get damages from someone (the word "E911" comes to mind). I'd be surprised if they weren't counting a large percentage of the R&D costs in that prototype.
  • s/he would have gotten as much info about it before having to turn it back in - like get lots of close up shots of the circuit boards, ROM dumps, case design, pull the ASIC's, (chips? what chips??) etc. just in case a potential competitor is, ahem, interested ($$). A rare opportunity.

  • While the R&D cost could easily be $1M, the value of the actual unit itself is hardly more than a few thousand - the cost of a small PCB run or wire-wrap prototype. I would moderate this article as "Bullshit". Oh, I forgot, we can't moderate articles.. :-(

  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:48AM (#1458832)
    IANAL, but read the law you cite. That law does *not* say you can keep everything you receive in the mail (or via some other delivery service); it simply says that implied contracts where you "indicate consent" by accepting your mail are unenforceable and you are under no obligation to either pay the invoice or return the merchandise at your own expense. It's the same logic used to overturn the other notorious unilateral implied contracts - "shrinkwrap" software license.

    You *can* be required to return the merchandise at the shipper's expense.

    You *can* be required to return misdelivered merchandise to the delivery agent, so they can complete delivery.

    But most importantly, this law doesn't apply because it wasn't invoiced merchandise and this individual was not the intended recepient.

    As for the presence of the cops, that's probably just standard procedure when valuable deliveries go astray. It's wildly inappropriate here, but think about what's usually involved in megadollar value shipments. It's not unreasonable for the cops to wonder if there's a connection between the carrier, the recepient, and the missing diamonds.
  • The cynical side of me strongly suspects (e), but in the end I'll probably have to go with:

    (f) Microsoft has some idiots on the payroll, and the particular idiots involved are about to get canned.
  • Umm, sorry.. yes.. it *is* illegal for you to keep it. It's not rightfully yours just because it arrived in the mail in a package with your name on it.
    You may be confusing a closely related 'rule'...
    You are not obligated to send it back, or to track down the real owner, or to do anything, really.
    This does not mean, though, that you own it!
  • Not true, I believe, however, what you are thinking of is a rule that prevents companies from reverse-marketing things to you... ie: mailing them to you then making it your responsibility to return the item or pay for it. The law (ianal) says you are not obligated to do either, simply because they sent it to you.

    This does not cover things sent by accident.
  • by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:51AM (#1458845)
    The unit was supposed to be shipped to Redmond via UPS, but apparently a clerical error at Microsoft's WebTV facility did not allow that to happen as originally planned.

    I'm guessing the shipping computer Blue-Screened at an inopportune time.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • WinTV [] is a bt8x8-based video capture card manufactured by Hauppauge. WebTV [] is something completely different.
  • [Bill Gates] Hey Rudy, how you doing?
    [Rudy Gulianai] Ay, Not bad, just happy the subway situation didn't get out of hand
    [BG] That's good. I was wondering, uh, umm, I sort of, um, lost a "computer" in the mail, I was wondering if you could track it down for me
    [RG] Who is the carrier
    [BG] United Parcel Services
    [RG] Hmm... Yeah, I've had trouble with them too, why don't you just call them
    [BG] Well, the damn operator would believe that the package was worth a million dollars
    [RG] You shipped a @#$@#$ million dollar computer with UPS, you @#$@#$, are you completely out of your mind.
    [BG] Yeah, I know, it was a stupid thing to do, but can you help me?
    [RG] I'll see what I can do
  • by RedX ( 71326 ) <redx@wideop[ ] ['enw' in gap]> on Monday December 20, 1999 @10:01AM (#1458856)
    The article cited in the /. summary does a horrible job of telling the story. Check out this [] article at the NY Times for a better recap. Seems the NYPD unit involved was the Computer Investigative Unit, which is certainly appropriate due to the fact that this was suspected industrial espionage. At the time, it was suspected that the shipping labels may have been intentionally switched in order to steal the device. In hindsight, the police did overreact since this turned out to be a mistake rather than industrial espionage. To be fair, they didn't know if they were knocking on the door of a pregnant wife (they were) or a corporate spy. Also, the device was in the hand's of the banker's father, who is an attorney. Regardless of our opinions of MS, a prototype of one of their more popular products that is more than a year from market probably is worth $1 million to them or their competitors, and when something like this ends up in NY rather than Seattle, you can bet there will be some pretty beefy law enforcement involved. I'm sure a similar case with a big company like GM, Ford, IBM, Apple, etc. would result in similar police response.
  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @10:36AM (#1458858)
    The million dollar valuation is the same one used to show how costly Kevin Mitnick's crimes were. And oh, remember that million dollar-ish document somebody dumpster-dove from a phone company, the one telling how to dial 911 or something? It probably cost MS over a megabuck to develop the new product, but the prototype was not, in and of itself, the thing of real value, and they probably lied to the PD in order to get them to do their dirty work for them.
  • by wfmcwalter ( 124904 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @10:38AM (#1458862) Homepage
    That "million-dollar" valuation on the proto-board is, I fear, wholy specious. Whilst I'm sure MS spent $1M to produce the board, that cost was almost entirely spent on the _design_. Thus, if they lost the board, they only have to make another from the same design.

    Now, a hand-stuffed custom board with a bunch of rework is still an expensive item (maybe $10-50K in engineer's time) and it's rare (they'll probably have a dozen or two of a given rev), but unless it's fabricated from pure gold, the board itself isn't hugely valuable.

    It's also misleading to argue that, because the board embodies "trade secrets", its loss could cost the company millions of dollars - its a pretty opaque instanciation of a proprietary design, not that design itself. A prototype board is no more reverse-engineerable than is a production board, and no-one claims that by shipping production hardware they're losing valuable intellectual property.
  • NY has a long and proud tradition of alienating businesses by severely taxing and regulating them until they flee to neighboring states. If NY has a claim to being "Centre Of The Universe", then it's only from a combination of having the UN, a bunch of kick-ass cultural institutions like museums and Broadway, and Wall Street.

    Besides, Microsoft is located in Redmond, WA, and not NY. Do you really see Billy Gates waking up tomorrow and saying to himself: "You know, we really got some curteous service from those swell folk over there in New York. I think it's time we left Redmond and my friends in Boeing and moved cross-country so we can be closer to Riker's Island."

    Or at least he wouldn't say it without downing a few strong ones first. Stay tuned for his New Year's eve celebration, I suppose.
  • Heck, just open your wallet and look at your fiat currency. Why does so many dollars buy you so much gold? Because someone, somewhere decided "Here is a piece of paper. It's worth a lot." Why are certain pieces of artwork worth so much at auction? Because someone, somewhere, decided "Here is a painting. It's worth a lot."

    I myself take some personal comfort in thinking of WebTV as a bit of dadaist expression.
  • I would really like to understand why you think this is anti-MS or a conspiracy theory of any kind. The article simply stated the facts about a rather embarrassing shipping snafu.

    MS got the NYPD involved because there was suspicion of industrial espionage. We laugh, sure, and maybe some people here overreact and say "no way that was worth $1M US!! MS is controlling the cops!", but most of us just enjoy mocking a large corporation for being so careless with their valuables.

    As an aside, to those who do feel that this exemplifies MS's influence over governmental agencies...

    1. The prototype was worth about $1M US because having the design fall into competing hands before it could be mass-produced would be a potential loss of first-run profits, since a competitor could come to market before MS, or at roughly the same time, thus forcing MS to compete much more quickly than necessary.
    2. If you sent a very sensitive package, such as this prototype, and it suddenly wound up in the wrong part of the country, you too would probably call the shipper, then the area PD to get your property back. There was suspicion of criminal activity, and the NYPD acted accordingly. In retrospect, it seems downright silly, but hindsight is 20/20...

    -- Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups
  • Did you even READ the article? A shipping clerk changed the addressing label on the package, sending it to New York instead of Redmond. The clerk thought it was an ordinary WebTV and that nobody would miss it.
  • How to make a $1M prototype:

    1. Hire 50 enginners at an average of $100k/year
    2. Have these engineers spend 2 1/2 months designing something
    3. Spend $10,000 on parts for the prototype

    Congratulations, you've just built your very first $1M prototype.

    I'm guessing that this was probably demo'd at the western cable show last week or something.

  • by vyesue ( 76216 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @10:57AM (#1458894)
    classic anti-microsoft conspiracy slashdot trash. I'm sure I'll get moderated down for this, but who really needs positive karma in a microcosm full of minds that run the gamut from "closed" to "empty"? one time I ordered a whole bunch of computer parts online which UPS kindly misdelivered to some building on 29th st in nyc. as soon as their tracking system notified me of the snafu, I notified UPS - they told me that they could send someone over the next day to try and pick it up, and since that wasn't good enough for Mr. I-Need-It-Now-Bossman, I called my helpful NYPD who said they'd be more than happy to escort me over to pick up my stuff. the NYPD want to help you if youre a NYC resident (unless you're hatian, in which case I guess they just want to anally molest you). let's not get our panties in knots because they helped microsoft.
  • by adimarco ( 30853 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:16AM (#1458896) Homepage
    I know that if you receive unrequested merchandice in your mail, you are entitled to keep it for free. This law was enacted to prevent companies from sending products to people who hadn't requested them, along with a bill requesting payment. If someone does this to you, throw the bill away and keep whatever they sent :)

    I'm curious as to how this kind of "clerical error" would be dealt with in that kind of context. Do we have any lawyers here on /. who could commend on the legal issues involved in this kind of thing?

    Even more interesting, as the author noted, was how Micros~1 managed to get the NYPD to knock on this guy's door to retreive the package even 'though no crime was committed. Do they really have that much clout? God help us all if so :)

  • by Ledge Kindred ( 82988 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:19AM (#1458900)
    *knock* *knock*

    "Hello, sir, this is the NYPD. We have been informed by Microsoft that you have machines here that have been bought for the express purpose of running a Microsoft operating system but you are instead running Linux on them. We would like to come in and confiscate those machines."


  • Losing IP that you are already shipping and losing IP from a product that is a year away from the market are two totally different things.

    The gravy-money made off a product is in the first few months while others are racing to catch up and get their product to market. For the most part, profit margins decline significantly after a competitor enters the arena and price wars begin. Ever notice the price of Intel processors after AMD ups the ante?

    Besides, the issue is not really about losing IP; it's about value-added features. If a competitor got his hands on that unit, he would not only be able to reverse engineer the technology, but he would also know every cool feature Microsoft planned to incorporate and make sure his product had the same (or better).

    So, Microsoft stood to lose:
    1. a limited run prototype, probably in short supply,
    2. IP developed for this, and
    3. some amount of competive advantage against other web appliance makers (feature set)
    Sounds like a pretty big deal to me! Depending on the circumstances, that box could have been worth a whole lot more to Microsoft than $1M.
  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:19AM (#1458902) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft completed merger talks with industry giant United States of America. Reports are somewhat sketchy at the moment, but it looks like Microsoft will be purchasing a majority share in the USoA. Supporters point to the recent Microsoft controlled actions of the NYPD as further evidence of the MegaCorps takeover. USoA stock skyrocketed on the rumors as investors speculate that for the first time in fifty years USoA may actually turn a profit. Microsoft stock also rose several points as the acquisition of nuclear weapons makes them a formidable world economic player.

  • Even more interesting, as the author noted, was how Micros~1 managed to get the NYPD to knock on this guy's door to retreive the package even 'though no crime was committed. Do they really have that much clout? God help us all if so :)

    Microsoft is the largest company in the world. Their market cap is higher than the Pentagon's annual budget. Of course they have that much clout. They could probably get Guiliani to show up in person at the guy's doorstep to pick up the unit.
    ------------------------------------------- ---------------
  • Maybe it was really, really big.
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @10:25AM (#1458918) Homepage
    Yeah, hows the ol' senate campaign going? Really? Sure, sure, glad we could help out. Look, there's been a little mix up here, and, haha, was wondering if you could do us a little favor this time? Sure, look, I need to get our shipping mgr. in touch with your police chief, What's that Rudi? No, no, no, just a small operation, nothing big, just a single user, uh voter, yeah; What? Oh, yeah, they are a dime a dozen, hehheh. Sure, just talk with my shipping dept and there'll be more where that came from, lots more, Ok?

  • No, no, no. You aren't thinking clearly. Microsoft just flushed $1m down the toilet. It's gone, *poof*. Microsoft will have to start from scratch and redesign the thing.

    This is the same as Nasa blasting $160million at Mars, every industry losing trillions on piracy, ice makers losing quintillions during winter because people can freeze their own ice in their back yard, and the governments losing sextillions every day because they do not tax the Internet. All of these things are lost forever. And it all can be explained because of global warming.
  • aah aah aah, higher than the Pentagon's published annual budget...
  • Okay. First, this is not necessarily true.
    There are laws stating that if companies send you stuff you didn't ask for, and expect you to pay for it, you are under no obligation to either return it or pay for it. You do not get to keep everything you receive in the mail.

    Now, what nobody mentions was *how* the police dealt with it.
    Did they kick in his door and take him downtown for hours of questioning? Or did they knock, nicely explain what happened, and take the merchandies back to Microsoft in a safe manner?
    You know.. the police *CAN* be 'hired' (so to speak) to do things for you so long as it's within the scope of the law, which this certainly is.
    Hey.. what would happen if the guy said 'No, I won't give it back? '... then MS would have to go call the police and get it done that way. Would you hand over your new web-tv if some guy showed up at the door saying 'Hi, I'm from microsoft, and we accidentally shipped you a million dollar prototype'.
  • It's good to know that NYPD is expanding their list of services available to the public. I suppose they had to find something to fill the day now that they can't shove plungers in peoples butts anymore.
  • "This program has just performed an illegal operation. Your local police force will arrive shortly to take it into custody."
  • not to use MS Access to maintain their address databases...
  • Think about what you just said.
    What if the person says 'Sorry, I don't believe you are from Microsft, and I think you are pulling some kind of scam, now please get off my doorstep.'
    The MS employee has no legal ground to stand on. They have to leave, and the person would then be knowingly holding a million dollar prototype.

    Also, as someone pointed out, you don't KNOW that the person wasn't involved in the mishap. Some scams *are* that elaborate. The simple answer: send the boys in blue to ask nicely.

    People, if *YOU* lost a million dollar box of diamonds because the armored car fucked up, *YOU* would be able to easily get the police to help you ask for them back, and nobody would say it's your fault...

    As for the 'tactic' being wrong, what is wrong?
    The man wasn't assaulted, handcuffed, or hurt. His door wasn't kicked down, and nobody pointed a gun at him. They simply had cops there, and explained the situation. This is *NOT* a violation of anyone's rights. Nobody forced him to do anything!
  • by Royster ( 16042 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @11:10AM (#1458928) Homepage articles/18tv.html

  • Am I the only one that
    finds it hilarious that
    someone went through all
    this trouble for WebTV?

    ------------------------------------------------ ----------
  • You're right, although I think it varies from state to state. But, I've taken advantage of that law a few times.

    A perceptive person might have caught on to the fact that they had a prototype, and might have contacted their lawyer prior to / in anticipation of hearing from Microsoft (although the NYPD part would throw me too) and then, through their lawyer, demand that Microsoft pay them money (you insert ghastly amount here) in order to get their unsolicited shipment back. The lawyer could at least hold the NYPD and Microsoft lawyers at bay while the recipient had some fun at Microsoft's expense.

    Ah, but I guess this guy was just too honest.
  • by tokengeekgrrl ( 105602 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @09:26AM (#1458939)
    It's more than a pretty good question - it's a really disturbing question. I would think that in New York, of all places, the police have more important problems to address, like say...oh actual crimes, as opposed to playing gopher for a big corporation who has plenty of money to hire and send someone to fix the company's error.

    I guess Mayor Guiliani is just as bad as Mayor Willie Brown here in San Francisco when it comes to catering to big companies at the expense of the taxpaying public. (Please excuse the rag-on-my-mayor tangent - I'm in a really blah mood...must be Monday).

    - tokengeekgrrl

  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @02:34PM (#1458945) Homepage
    "When Samuel Posner opened the Hanukkah gift from his son, the high-tech gizmo seemed like any other pricey new toy. "

    It was claimed as a Hanukkah present. Do Jewish people give presents on Hanukkah? (I don't know, I'm a practising atheist ;-)) Still, this seems fishy to me.

    "and his wife, who is seven months pregnant and confined to bed, "

    Why on Earth is a seven month pregnant woman confined to bed? 6 months is when it starts to show, and the women are quite capable of moving under their own power even 9 months pregnant and overdue.

    ""We said to her, 'Don't open the door,"' recalled Samuel Posner, who stayed on the phone while he and his daughter-in-law tried to figure out what the detectives wanted. "

    Why would they be afraid of the police? The fellow's son is a lawyer.

    ""How the item -- a cutting-edge version of a WebTV box, a device that can make an ordinary television set capable of browsing the World Wide Web"

    It is generally agreed, by Microsoft and others, that WebTV is not very usefull. In fact, their market penetration is quite light as cheap Emachines (and other limited functionality computers) flood the market. Microsoft has been trying to bad away, not embrace more fully, WebTV.

    That it is it potentially worth a million dollars is also somewhat not believable.

    "There, the device was engineered as a prototype with new features that would not be on the market for at least a year, said Detective Ted Cappozziello of the Computer Investigative Unit of the New York City police."

    Engineered? Don't you mean designed? Besides, what would reverse engineering of such a device showing? Wow, they're using a faster proccessor than the old one -- didn't see that coming! New "features" not to be on the market for at least a year? That'd be new year 2001 -- I think we'll all be using Athlons on Cable modem connections by then, so why the odd timescale? It stinks.

    "A Microsoft spokeswoman, Angela Yearta, said the company was grateful to the police for helping to retrieve the box but had no comment on the investigation."

    "Big time" newspapers have printed incorrect things before, this is why there are retractions. Until I see an official press release from MS, and perhaps a nice little statement from the NYPD, I will consider this a wonderful little tale of woe.
  • Actually, this is not unreasonable. Prototypes are usually very expensive, due to the large amount of research and development money that is put into them. The low cost that the consumer pays is largely due to the mass production of many units. The cost goes up significantly when only building one or two units.

    Let's make a really small silly example to demonstrate. Intel makes microchips. It costs approxamately $1 billion to build a chip fabrication plant. Let's say that Intel makes one chip at that plant. That chip's value will be about $1 billion. Now let's say they make thousands of chips at that plant. Well, the price comes down considerably. In other words, the sunk cost for the prototype is the same as that for the mass production variety. It's just that the cost can be distributed across the mass production systems, and not the prototype.

    Don't worry. When this $1 million WebTV hits the stores, it will cost considerably less.
  • by coli ( 64530 )
    This is a much MUCH better version of the story. And is much closer to the truth. .webtv/index.html

    You're all up in arms about this!?

    Microsoft I suppose? Everything that has to do about Microsoft is evil agian huh? So this is the intelligence of your everyday average Slashdot poster?

    I suppose that if the company in this story is Redhat, all of you would be saying how helpful and efficient the NYPD is...

    *sigh* Moderating this down would only amplify the hypocracy...
  • My mom worked at Northgate before they went out of business and it was a common occurance for UPS or Fedex to forget to have the customer sign for the computer. The result was that the customer can (legally, too) claim that the package was never delivered. Northgate (or UPS) often ate the cost of that. I know another friend who works in auto sales, and they've lost entire cars before - 30k, *poof*. These things happen - alot. The NYPD technically could do nothing if the prototype was shipped to the wrong address. They could kindly ask for it back (maybe even a small reward), but they cannot force you to give it up.

    Infact, I got a package which contained something worth a rather large dollar amount and the guy didn't ask for signature. As a result, I was never billed. I will not divulge details, however. *g* Stuff like this happens all the time... it's why you buy insurance for these kinds of things...

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.