Office Student Edition Scam

Have you been computer shopping and noticed that most low cost machines don’t come with Microsoft Office? You might find it comes with a time limited trial version of Office. Maybe it has Microsoft Works instead. It isn’t unusual to find a machine with a stand alone version of WordPerfect. And then there are the dirt cheep machines that leave you with no word processor.

So assuming you are the kind of person that doesn’t shoo the salesmen away till you have already decided, you point out that this machine doesn’t come with Word. He acts surprised a machine wouldn’t come with it and says you can get it for only $100 more. You think, wow that is a really good deal since I thought it costs more than $300 for Small Business Edition or more than $400 for Office Professional. What, I can install it on three machines? That is an amazing deal! The whole machine I was looking at costs only $400 why would I spend almost the same for one piece of software when the salesman is pushing it for $100.

Did you mention that you needed this new computer for your business? Yes, the salesman asked what you needed the system for and you told him it was for your business. Did you mention having any students in your family? No, why would that come up, this is a business purchase. Did you point out Works Suite comes with Word? Yes, but he responded that for a business you might need Powerpoint and Outlook. Clearly he knows you are buying this for your business.

Is this an isolated incident? I don’t think so. I have heard this several times over the past few months at different computer and office supply stores. It helps makes the computer sale plus $100 of software and the salesman isn’t going to get in trouble with Microsoft for your business not being eligible for Student Edition, just you. He can always say you told him it was for your kids homework.

So what are the legal alternatives since Microsoft is charging insane amounts for their office suite? Well, my choice is WordPerfect Office which does a good job with most Word documents. Though at $250, its Standard Edition isn’t that much less than MS Office Small Business Edition. Microsoft Works Suite is also a good choice at $100 since it comes with the previous version of Word (which usually is good enough). There is also just plane Microsoft Works for about $50 if you just want a simple word processor and don’t actually need Word for compatibility. But if not having actual Word doesn’t bother you, there are Open Office or AbiWord which are completely free and read and write Word documents.

If you are interested in learning more about Microsoft licensing, ZDNet has a quiz. I was pretty surprised by a few of the answers.

Update April 2, 2007: I can no longer find anything about who qualifies for what version on Microsoft.com. The “not eligible” link above now points to the Internet Archive’s copy. Microsoft must not want you you are not allowed to use it till their lawyers show up. The page I previously linked to now redirects you to the main Office site. Looking up Office Home and Student 2007 at some retailers gives you this information:

  • This product is for non-commercial, non-commercial location, educational use only.
  • This is a personal learning license for qualified educational users only. (Example: In a household, only the students are eligible to use the software, however parents can use the software when assisting students.)
  • You can install this edition on up to three (3) PCs in your home.
  • This product does not qualify for future upgrade pricing or installation(s).
  • You may not transfer your usage rights to another individual or allow them to install the program at another location.
  • You are only eligible to use this product while you are a qualified educational user.
  • Microsoft provides only installation support for this product.

That is pretty significantly different from the 2003 version:

  • You must be a qualified educational user or a household member of a qualified user when you acquire this product.
  • You’re restricted to using this product for non-commercial (non-revenue-generating) use.
  • You can install this product on up to three computers or devices in your household.
  • You can’t transfer your usage rights to another individual.
  • You are still eligible to use this product after you or a member of your household no longer qualifies as an educational user.

The reason I am updating this is because someone I know just bought a new computer for what they thought was a really good deal (display model 10% off, a $200 rebate in store, and a free printer) and thought they got Microsoft Office. They did get Office, but only for the 60 day trial. I explained what they got and how much it would cost to buy the proper version of Office. Since it did come with Works, it will be $239 for the upgrade to Microsoft Office Standard 2007. They were pretty upset about not being told they were getting only the trial.

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