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MS selling $10 Office 2k, testing Windows rental in colleges

Rental pricing seems more than a little wonky though...

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Microsoft isn't just planning to offer Windows for rent when it reaches the next generation - a tipster from Cleveland State University in Ohio tells us that the company is already doing so for students at the University, at the bracing rate of $10 a week. And actually the deal is substantially wider-ranging, as it's part of an Enterprise Licensing Agreement (ELA) negotiated between Microsoft and 15 colleges and universities across Ohio.

It's not entirely clear to what extent the rental part of the deal is specific to CSU, but as it appears to be intended to provide some sort of mechanism to cope with various restrictions in the ELA, it seems likely that other Ohio colleges will be in similar boats. Under the terms of the ELA students can buy Office 2000, Office 98 for Mac and FrontPage 2000 for $10 apiece. Microsoft's clearly been testing its anti-piracy mechanisms again, because these are special encrypted CDs that allow installation only on two computers, and require registration with Microsoft.

But the rental bit is peculiar. Although CSU's terms and conditions say that OS upgrades are included in the ELA, these aren't listed as available for sale in the FAQ. Instead, you can rent Win98, NT 4.0, FrontPage for Mac or Visual Studio for $10 a week. Our informant says that faculty can buy Win98 SE for $49, but that students aren't allowed to, and have to rent it at $10 a week for a maximum four week period.

CSU students presumably aren't falling over one another to take advantage of this oddly uncompelling deal, but at $10 a pop for a real live Office 2k licence you can keep after you graduate, the apps deal looks like a winner.

Overall, the Ohio ELA provides us with clear pointers to the way Microsoft is going in education. It's not clear how much Ohio paid for the ELA, but it sure as hell isn't the difference between $10 and retail, times number of staff and students.

Microsoft is clearly willing to offer massive carrots in order to monopolise (that word again) the education market. It's also determined to enforce compulsory registration, and in this case it even has a signed registration form and proof of your real ID, because the certificate will be matched against University records. And it's definitely experimenting with rental.

But apparently it's not willing to be free and easy with the pricing of operating systems as it is with apps. Maybe it's just the encryption and registration doesn't work properly. Yet. ®

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