Just yesterday Jonathan Blum had a story published on The Street that talked about Microsoft’s free software offers and whether they are impacting sales.  He interviewed me for that story and I am quoted on the second page where I offered my opinion that these free software offers are not going to hurt the software giant.

The interview for that story occurred around the time that Microsoft announced offering Office 365 hosted emails accounts at no cost for non-profits as part of their Corporate Citizenship efforts.

This week an entirely new giveaway was announced on the Office News blog that continues Microsoft’s free software handouts. This one is called Student Advantage.

As part of our ongoing commitment to education, today we announced Student Advantage, a new offer which will make it easy for students to use the latest and best version of Office at their education institution and at home.  Beginning December 1, 2013, education institutions worldwide that license Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for staff and faculty can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost.  More than 35,000 institutions are automatically eligible to deliver the Student Advantage benefit to their students. Nearly 98 percent of students using productivity software currently use Office. Student Advantage enables students to access the familiar experience of Office in an always up-to-date cloud service.

This program was announced alongside the results of an IDC white paper called Skill Requirements for Tomorrow’s Best Jobs. Some of the highlights of that paper include:

  • The 60 high-growth occupations include jobs in medical support and nursing; sales and marketing professionals; education, teaching, and instruction; computer programming and specialists; and office managers/business operations.
  • These high-growth, high-wage positions are in demand across multinational companies, with more than 53,000 companies looking for them on a recent weekday. Global companies posting for these positions include financial services firms like CITI and Santander; consulting and accounting firms like Deloitte and PwC; manufacturers like General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corp.; and retail giants like Home Depot and Advanced AutoParts.
  • Communication, integration and presentation skills (CIPs) are required for about 40 percent of all positions and make up 11 of the top 20 skills that are required by 39 percent of the fastest growing, highest paying positions.
  • The only software package called out within the top 20 skills across all occupations is Microsoft Office, explicitly required in 15 percent of high-growth, high-salary positions. Microsoft Office is No. 3 on the list of skills most required, and Microsoft PowerPoint and Word are No. 11 and No. 13 most required skills.
  • Assessments should be used to demonstrate students’ mastery of material and help improve the teaching and learning process. IDC calls for programs to include formative adaptive assessments, performance-based tasks to demonstrate CIPs capabilities, and appropriate technologies to facilitate consistent administration and evaluation of assessments.

Under the Student Advantage program students at eligible institutions, which is currently around 35,000 according to Microsoft, can install Office 365 Plus on up to five devices.

Office 365 ProPlus includes the following programs:

  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Excel
  • OneNote
  • Outlook
  • Access
  • Publisher
  • Lync

These are full versions that reside on the student’s local hard drive and can be used offline.

For those colleges and universities that do not subscribe to Office 365 ProPlus then those students are still eligible to grab Microsoft’s Office 365 University offering which, at a cost of just $79.99 for a four year subscription, includes all the same programs as Office 365 ProPlus  program except for Lync. It is also limited to being installed on just two devices vice five.

So the software giveaway from Microsoft continues. If you go back to Jonathan Blum and the question he asked me in his story on The Street yesterday, whether these giveaways will hurt their bottom line, I will be sticking with my original answer.