David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.
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By David Ringstrom, CPA
Microsoft is dipping its corporate toe into the crowdfunding pool. An experimental program dubbed Chip In allows students to tap friends and relatives in a quest to fund their next computer. The program will run through September 1, 2013, and offers a 10 percent discount on a selection of name-brand laptops, tablets, and all-in-one computers. Fleet-footed student funders can also score a free, four-year subscription to Office 365 University.
The Chip In program is limited to full- or part-time students in the United States with an .edu e-mail address. Employees of US educational institutions who have an .edu e-mail address can also participate in the program.
Participants start by selecting a laptop or tablet that costs as little as $359 or as much as $1,079. Prices reflect a 10 percent discount, or the amount that Microsoft is "chipping in" to get participants started.
Next, participants establish a profile by logging in with their Facebook account, and then the race is on to see which friends, relatives, and acquaintances are willing to "chip in." The first 10,000 students to fully fund their purchase get a complimentary four-year subscription to Office 365 University, a $79 value.
There are a couple of Byzantine aspects to the program. Let's say you select the $359 ASUS X202e but only raise $300. In that case, all pledges will be returned; in effect, no one's credit card will be charged. But, if you select the $810 Lenovo Yoga and only raise $500, you can still apply that amount toward a less expensive computer, or you can "chip in" the remaining balance yourself. Specifically, participants must either (1) raise the entire amount of a computer priced less than $499, or (2) raise a minimum of $499 to be able to get a new laptop through this program.
Another catch is that one of the tablets, the Surface RT, uses an operating system incompatible with Office 365 University. Further, the FAQ section of the program contains a hypothetical question about the ability to install Office 365 University on two devices, followed by the terse response: "We are not sharing any details about installation on mobile devices today." Byzantine, indeed.
There are certainly at least a couple of upsides here for Microsoft. First, the program gets participants to use Windows 8 computers, as opposed to Mac OS or another operating system. Further, the free subscription to Office 365 gives students four years' use of the web-based Office applications. Once acclimated to this environment, they'll likely continue as paying subscribers, which furthers Microsoft's Cloud-migration and subscription-based revenue goals.
Office 365 typically costs $99/year for home users and allows use of the web-based Office applications on any computer, and the desktop versions on up to five devices. Conversely, students can qualify for a discounted Office 365 University edition that runs $79 for four years. Just be sure not to ask questions about installing on mobile devices.
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