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Dell Dude to make exclusive appearance at UW

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In case you had any doubts, ladies and gentleman, your children are truly up for sale, and you're paying tens of thousands of dollars to put them on the market. That's what we learned this week from the University of Washington, which has struck a broad music rental deal with Napster and Dell.

Dogged reporter Kayla Webley of The Daily pressured UW, Dell and Napster to release the financial details of their agreement. Napster has so far banned schools from revealing such information. UW, however, is a publicly funded school and was forced to disclose the data by open records laws.

Napster typically charges customers between $10 and $15 per month to rent music from its service. Customers must pay extra to obtain permanent downloads of songs. As you'll see though, the schools receive massive discounts.

UW, for example, will pay Napster $24,000 for 8 months of its service. Napster is charging just $2 per student for 1,500 students. As part of the promotional partnership, Dell will also chip in $24,000 for another 1,500 kids. Then, Dell will deliver $53,000 worth of servers at no charge to the school, the student paper reported.

But here's the real rub.

"Under the provisions the University must exclusively promote the Dell branded DJ, secure two Dell kiosks on campus to feature Dell products and services, facilitate a Dell launch event in the back-to-school timeframe, host Dell information on the UW website, execute an email campaign and participate in a case study," The Daily reported.

So students have been put on a music meat market where they're being force fed a service that doesn't work with Mac OS X, Linux or even older versions of Windows and that doesn't work with the leading MP3 player. Instead, the kids will have to listen to a sales pitch for Dell's embarrassing device and nothing else.

It's no secret that Napster's college deals reek of dot-com business model madness. At the University of Rochester, for example, students recoiled against Napster, showing their disaffection for the service by not buying a single song from it. The damaging social undercurrents of such deals have also been well publicized.

Thankfully, UW has some real brains on its side. It will pay for the Napster service by selling royalties to software and other technology developed by the school to various companies. Er, here's guessing Dell needs a new calculator app.

Hopefully, you parents don't mind paying for your children to appear in a Dell commercial. After all, they are learning a valuable lesson about renting music that's sure to last them a lifetime.

There's more on this shocker here. ®

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