Microsoft has flipped the switch on Student Advantage, a program, announced in October, that extends the availability of Office to students of educational institutions that pay for Office 365 for their staff and faculty.
According to Microsoft, 35,000 educational institutions are eligible for Student Advantage, which provides access to the ProPlus SKU of Office 365, again provided that its paid staff are current users of Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus.
Office 365 ProPlus includes Access and Lync, making it a robust set of tools. Microsoft took a dig at Google in its announcement, stating that “[e]ven Google’s own job postings require competency with Microsoft Office tools.”
What this means in practice is that Microsoft is lowering the marginal cost of Office for students to zero, while guaranteeing itself revenue through contracts with universities and the like. Microsoft cannot afford to cede mind and market share to Google, which provides a free Office competitor, and it must preserve its revenue from the product, which is a key profit source.
Office 365 ProPlus generally costs around $12 per month, per user, so the amount of ‘free’ software that Microsoft will provide is non-trivial. To protect Office from low, or zero-cost competitors, it’s probably sensible for it to sacrifice some revenue opportunity to keep up its primacy in the productivity market.