Microsoft (MSFT) likes to talk about how its Office suite is far superior to free upstarts like StarOffice or Google (GOOG) Apps, and it is. But for typically cash-poor students, the free stuff carries a strong draw, and Microsoft can’t afford to see a whole generation of college kids get habituated to other tools.
So Microsoft is making Office really, really cheap for students. The company launched its “ultimate steal” Web site, offering Office 2007 Ultimate for about $60 to anyone who has a working dot-edu email address and promises they’re actually enrolled in a course for credit somewhere.
That’s a 91% discount off the retail price of $680, and still cheaper than the “Home and Student” edition of Office, which lacks Outlook or Access and retails for $150 ($84 at Amazon).
The offer runs through the end of 2010, and by then the next version of Office will be out. No joy for Apple (AAPL) Mac-using students though — only the Windows version of Office is being discounted.
It’s a smart move by Microsoft — even if it’s for resumes and nothing else, at the $60 price point the software is a very different value proposition than it used to be.
But with such a steep discount, Microsoft might also find itself subsidizing Office purchases for non-students.
In a test, I was approved for the discount by giving Microsoft my little-used alumni.upenn.edu email address. That might bite Microsoft: There’s probably a non-zero population of users who lack the patience or sophistication to steal Office outright from P2P networks, but might be willing to cheat Microsoft out of a few hundred bucks in revenue by saying they’re a student when they’re not.
Update: At least one reader from a yale.edu address says the Ultimate Steal has been around for a while. We’re trying to confirm.