@Dazed and Confused
Open Office is developed gratis by a community and the cost of the product reflects the level of financial renumeration that the community receives. There is nothing to stop individuals or companies selling OO deployment and support, the marketplace is essentially open, as is the code. The product also conforms to truly open standards - ODF - allowing anybody else to enter the marketplace with their own software capable of working with documents authored in OO.
Microsoft do not develop products for free and should not be permitted to sell them at vastly under-cut prices - either to schools or direct to students. The price at the till should reflect the development and supply chain costs and margins, otherwise this is simply domination of the market through having bags of cash to spare. The fact is that MS Office is largely a closed source product implementing proprietory 'standards' and is likely to stay that way.
This leads me on to two points.
First, schools that take up Microsoft's licencing terms are helping to perpetuate the dominance of a closed product and that is not good, in the long term, for anybody except Microsoft. Without competition they will simply stop investing (MS did nothing significant with Internet Explorer for years until FireFox came along and started eating market share). Competition is healthy for the general public and for the companies involved.
Second, allowing Microsoft to sell the same product at two vastly different prices distorts the market. Lets face it, the student version of Office contains the same code as, and cost no less to develop than, the full version, because the base code is the same in each. Yes there are some 'optional' components and no doubt some crippled ones too (anyone remember VB Learning Edition which knew about Access but not about ODBC?). But fundamentally there should be a small percentage difference in price representing the difference in functionality. Currently the list price for Office 2007 Standard is £360 while the student edition is £120.
Doing this is a plain and simple subversion of the market in the "paid for and supported" marketplace that contributed to the death of competition such as WordPerfect Corporation.
Only Microsoft gain from this kind of market manipulation and anyone who tells you differently has their eyes closed.
And all this is aside from the fact that I don't think we should be teaching 7 year olds how to use office products in general. Yes, my 7 year old daughter came home one day to proudly tell me she now knew how to use PowerPoint. Use of office-type software should not be formally introduced until secondary school at the earliest and at that point there should be a teaching of general principles and an introduction to the products available. Given that OO is free, there is no reason why BOTH sets of tools cannot be loaded, allowing pupils to learn a bit about both and make their own informed choice over which they would like to use at home...