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Saturday, January 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:19 A.M.

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Microsoft lightens up, ends fight against MikeRoweSoft

By Kim Peterson
Seattle Times technology reporter

Mike Rowe, 17, of the Victoria, B.C., area, has given Microsoft control of his Web site in exchange for an Xbox, a free trip and other goodies.
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A 21st-century David and Goliath saga has ended like this: Goliath gives David an Xbox, a free plane trip and a new Web site.

That's what Microsoft has offered to end the public-relations fiasco known as

Mike Rowe, a 17-year-old student from the Victoria, B.C., area, created the site last year to show off his part-time Web-design work. He became a minor Web celebrity this month after Microsoft demanded he give up the domain name.

According to Rowe's Web site, Microsoft's Canadian law firm e-mailed him in November and accused him of copyright infringement over the site's name. The lawyers insisted that he transfer the Web site to Microsoft as soon as possible; in return he would receive about $10.

Rowe responded by saying he had put a lot of work into his Web business and that the name was worth at least $10,000, according to his site. He heard nothing more until Jan. 14, when he received a 25-page letter in the mail accusing him of planning to extort Microsoft all along.

He went to the news media with the story, and an Internet darling — and a new Microsoft headache — was born. It was, Rowe wrote, big beyond his wildest dreams.

Last week, Microsoft admitted it maybe took the case a little too seriously. The company began negotiating with Rowe, and yesterday Microsoft said it was taking steps to put the matter to rest.

Rowe has given Microsoft control of the Web site, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler. In return, Microsoft will help him get a new site, direct his Web traffic there and fly him and his family to Redmond in March to attend the company's annual research Tech Fest.

The company also will pay for Rowe's Microsoft certification training, which teaches him about Microsoft technologies, and give him a subscription to a Web site for Microsoft developers. It also will pay for the costs Rowe has incurred in the matter.

And last — but certainly not least to a 17-year-old — Microsoft will give Rowe an Xbox video-game console and let him choose some games from the company store.

"Once we were able to engage with Mike, we found him to be a bright young man with great potential," Desler said.

Rowe's father, Kim Rowe, had a different take. "You always hear that the little guy can make a difference," he said. "Maybe this is saying, 'Hey, we can.' "

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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