My eyes bled as a result of reading your post, RubySlippers. But aside from that, I'd like to point out that "the basic Microsoft software" is not free. Yes, if you buy a pre-built (most likely crap, for the record) computer from the store, they will most likely put Windows (and even Office in many cases) on it. Some might even give you the installation disk, but even so, you can't put that on another PC (even if you remove it from the first one), and often there's hassle involved just to reinstall it on the same one.
And Microsoft set up a deal with the supplier for that to happen. The supplier gets a sale, because it has a popular OS on it, and Microsoft gets to know that someone basically has Windows shoved onto them and is less likely to look for an alternative. Now that part isn't really such a bad thing - they give you what you most likely want, after all - but it does mean it isn't free.
If you actually want to put Windows on another PC, you're paying out the nose or resorting to piracy. Likewise, Office is on that, yes, but it isn't part of Windows, it certainly isn't free (very expensive to buy standalone, actually), and again, if you need to reformat your PC, then you can't just go and download it for free. Instead, you can pay a lot of money for a new copy.
So it's not free. It's not even cheap.