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back to article Kids hooked up with free Office subs at Microsoft-addicted schools

Microsoft has announced it will soon give students subscriptions to its cloud-based Office productivity software free of charge – provided, that is, their schools are already paid up. The software giant on Tuesday announced a new program called Student Advantage, whereby students worldwide can sign up for subscriptions to Office …

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If you get them young and you will have them for life

Schools should be vendor agnostic, not sales outlets for abusive monopolies.

<sigh>

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

"Schools should be vendor agnostic, not sales outlets for abusive monopolies."

I gave that a thumbs-up, but actually I think should not be vendor-agnostic but should openly promote FLOSS because it's the right thing to do.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

Schools are in the business of educating the young to be productive employees and contributors to society generally. The reality is that if they land a desk job they will be using Microsoft Office. In my view it makes sense for them to learn about the tools that will be useful to employers. All the bullshit about open source is self serving nonsense and would be a waste of time for the kids. When there are a significant number of employees using Open Office or Libre Office then there will be reason to learn about other tools. Until then, Office it it.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

"should openly promote FLOSS because it's the right thing to do."

Wrong answer: Discrimination is wrong no matter which side you discriminate against. Either way, it's still discrimination. The correct answer is to demand that schools use both. It's not as if installing LibreOffice would add much, if anything, to the costs, and both suites can use the same file formats now. It'd also be a lot cheaper for students, although Microsoft's offering goes a long way to help there.

Software is a damned tool. I don't need to know how a hammer works if all I intend to do with it is hang some pictures on a wall. Open Source only has value if there is sufficient interest and competence in your target market to understand it and work with it. It's worth pointing out that this stage that, when the GNU movement first began, there were a damned sight fewer programming languages and philosophies around too. Today, there's a veritable Babel of such languages, with new ones seemingly being invented every other day, so the chances of your audience actually being sufficiently competent in the language(s) you're developing in are shrinking, not growing.

Open data formats are far more useful and valuable than mere access to source code. What matters is that my data remains accessible if development on the tool that created it should end. Given that both MS Office and the Open/LibreOffice suites can both read ODF files now, this is no longer an issue; all schools should have to do is teach the value of open data formats.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

Both Goat Jam and Siruis Lee are correct.

The schools should be vendor agnostic, but they are training pupils to be useful in the workplace. Therefore it would be good if they understood how word processors, spreadsheets etc. work and how to create them in different tools; as opposed to just blindly learning the mouse clicks involved in doing something in a single package.

Learning the theory, then putting it into practice in several tools is the ideal way to learn. With FLOSS tools and things like Microsoft and Google educational programmes, it wouldn't be difficult to include 2 or 3 different applications for each type of task that the pupils have to learn. That should be the norm in IT related classes.

That said, to make it easier on the teachers in other subjects, all course work should be supplied in a common format! If I'm a teacher having to mark hundreds of essays, I don't want to have to load up Google Apps, LibreOffice and Word at the same time, just so I can mark all students work...

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

I believe a school should use a balanced approach and the most suitable tool for the job. For some schools this could be office, for others an open source approach. It also comes down to money, if you have a complete linux environment then indeed it is a no brainer. If you use windows with other software that requires CALS then the EES licensing offers office quite cheap combined with the CALS and upgrade licenses. Afterall for iGCSE ICT you need to show more than one office productivity app anyway so we run libreoffice and MS office.

At the end of the day for some schools this will be a good thing, for others it wont.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

Your post was so well-edited that I can't tell if it's a troll or not.

1) People use what they are taught

2) Employers use what people know

3) We should teach people what Employers use

And if what the employers are using is second-rate how do you break the cycle?

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

From Tom Lehrer, The Old Dope Peddler

"He gives the kids free samples,

Because he knows full well

That today's young innocent faces

Will be tomorrow's clientele."

I guess Microsoft is going back to the tried and tested methodology. 20 years ago MSFT "educational reps" in Eastern Europe and MSFT "partners" were handing out "pirated" keys and CDs for Windows 95 the way a drug gang hands out dope laced candy. That was during the "great Eastern European recession" so the economies there had nothing to pay for it anyway.

Once the economies in the target areas picked up Billigatus himself paid a visit to the president, piracy was discussed and measures were taken. The "pirated" keys were revoked and an enforcement campaign followed. As a result Microsoft had 99% market penetration served on a plate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

" The reality is that if they land a desk job they will be using Microsoft Office" .... Not in our company ... and we're in the Fortune 500

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We don't need no education

"they are training pupils"

That's the sad thing, they should be educating.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m55RDNlWnLI

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Re: "the right thing to do"

But Free Software is vendor-agnostic, both in the commercial sense and in the sense of open standards. In fact I can't imagine anything other than Free Software that would be, so if you're going to be vendor-agnostic then you've really only got one option.

Although I quite agree: schools (especially public, tax-funded schools) should not be prostituting children to commercial vendors, especially not convicted monopolists like Microsoft, they should be teaching children the underlying principles of computer use (at least), if not actual computer science (I live in hope).

Schools are for academia, not company training. If people want to specialise in some proprietary tool then they should do so after graduation, as mature adults in the workplace, not impressionable children in a classroom.

As for the argument (made by the usual, albeit rapidly declining, throng of Microsoft apologists) that children should be taught what's currently used in the workplace, that's a self-fulfilling prophesy. If children were taught something other than "Microsoft 101" in schools then maybe companies would be more inclined to choose alternatives. Although given the plummeting PC sales, it seems they already have. Will those same Microsoft apologists now advocate that children should be taught "Android 101" instead, I wonder? After all, it's what "most people" use now, so that fits the "logic" of the Microsoft apologists' argument.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

"The reality is that if they land a desk job they will be using Microsoft Office."

The reality also is that when these kids are hitting the market in 5 to 10 years the software will be so different that whatever they were monkey-trained to do now will be irrelevant and they will need to learn the new ways anyway.

I mean, I had last seen MS Office in 2006 or so. When I saw the "new" interface recently, I had no keep digging to find the functions I had used in Office 2003 or so. LibreOffice is much more similar in operation to the MS Office I used to use 10 years ago than current Office is, it looks like to me.

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Re: "the right thing to do"

FOSS = platform agnostic, partially yes, but you are still limiting yourself to one "supplier" and one tool. They should be learning about how to do things, not how to do things in product "X".

As to "in an office they will be using MS Office", in some, certainly, but they are more like going to be using SAP, NAVision, Dynamics, Dynamics CRM, SalesForce, MS Project, Oracle, Adobe CS or a plethora of bespoke tools written specifically for the company.

That is why it is important that they learn the theory about how software works and how to accomplish tasks, rather than learning MS Office or LibreOffice by rote. I have met people who learnt how to carry out specific tasks in one tool, DisplayWrite IV, for example and when they were moved to WordPerfect, a much more advanced tool or Word, they were totally lost.

It is also amazing the number of "trained" people who don't know how to use tabs or styles, for example..

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

Spot on Voland! I had exactly the same song ringing in my head as I read that.

I strive to teach people how to write well, how to analyse accurately and usefully, and how to design effective presentations, not how to use specific packages. I realise I'm in the minority, but that just makes me the more determined.

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Headmaster

Re: "FOSS = platform agnostic"

Actually I wrote "vendor-agnostic", which is something else entirely, although it is coincidentally true that Free Software is also platform-agnostic. The important point of agnosticism, in this case, is to ensure that we don't offer what amounts to "state aid" to a single vendor, by granting it the privilege of a monopoly on supply to tax-funded schools.

Teaching the "underlying principles" still requires some tools, nonetheless, and in order to maintain vendor neutrality those tools should be, essentially, vendor-less (i.e. non-commercial). For academic reasons they also need to be Free (open access to knowledge), although actually I'd argue that security is also an important reason (no back doors).

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Re: "FOSS = platform agnostic"

Sorry, my bad, I meant Vendor Agnostic.

I agree with you up to a point, but in a lot of categories the FOSS alternatives are feature light. I certainly use a lot of FOSS tools every day, but in some areas I still use closed source products vendor specific products, because I have tried the free alternatives and due to a lack of features or hassles in using them, it is actually more cost efficient to use a paid for product.

How about we throw out text books and just use Wikipedia? It wouldn't work. it is free and not costing the tax payers money, but it is full of inaccuracies and is lacking in information in many areas. It is a great additional source, but it can't replace text books. FOSS can, in some circumstances, replace vendor specific software, but not in all cases.

And in my day-to-day experience, LibreOffice can't replace MS Office in a business environment. I know, I've tried a couple of times and actually used OO.o as my main tool for a few years, but at the end of the day, I keep having to go back to MS Office because of missing features.

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Headmaster

Re: "FOSS alternatives are feature light"

Even if that's the case, I think you're overstating the importance of software "features" in a school classroom, especially when the point is to teach the underlying principles, not "features" unique to some proprietary vendor.

But in my experience the opposite is just as likely to be true. I can think of any number of Free Software applications where no comparable proprietary alternative exists, primarily multimedia, security and server applications, all of which would also make an excellent basis for computing education (especially ffmpeg, which utilises a lot of highly sophisticated maths and, unlike proprietary software, you can actually see and learn from that code).

Free Software may be comparable to Wikipedia in terms of collaboration but, in terms of academic integrity and technical merit, much of it is more comparable to the original Britannica (before it was Americanised).

As for "learning" office suites, that has nothing to do with computer science. It barely even qualifies as education, it's just a form of vocational training that used to be more honestly labelled "secretarial studies". "Learning" an office suit is an afternoon's work, surely, especially considering that its only legitimate function in schools is paperless homework, for which one only needs a very rudimentary skill with an equally rudimentary tool. Although frankly even the most rudimentary office suite these days already offers more functionality than any schoolchild is ever going to use, so it's a moot point.

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Re: If you get them young and you will have them for life

> With FLOSS tools and things like Microsoft and Google educational programmes, it

> wouldn't be difficult to include 2 or 3 different applications for each type of task that

> the pupils have to learn.

Except wuth the major push into the much-hyped "Common Core" system, there may not even be time to learn *one* word-processor, let alone 2 or 3. And with the heavy political influence of the B&M Gates Foundation in the Common Core arena, guess which one *would* get the support if any were to be picked as part of CC?

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Re: We don't need no education

Sorry, but "education" doesn't provide you with bubble-wrapped sheeple....

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Re: "the right thing to do"

> Schools are for academia, not company training. If people want to specialise in some

> proprietary tool then they should do so after graduation, as mature adults in the

> workplace, not impressionable children in a classroom.

Except that was never the intention of "Public Education", was it?

http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/7c.htm

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Schools are supposed to be educational institutions. Any school worth its name would use this as an excellent opportunity to teach students the many reasons why this is such a bad idea.

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By all means, take advantage...

but don't forget to also include other software in the curriculum. Teaching kids that there are many tools for the job is important.

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Unhappy

Many tools for the job?

Students that have been taught to THINK will easily figure that out for themselves!

But of course that's more work than training them to use the latest office software -- and Microsoft isn't going to fund actual education.

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Re: By all means, take advantage...

They need to be taught the principals of what they are trying to accomplish, not the specifics of how to achieve it with any one tool.

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Re: Many tools for the job?

"Students that have been taught to THINK will easily figure that out for themselves!"

Studnets who think for themselves are usually branded as "difficult" by teachers - most of whom are teachers because they can't get jobs anywhere else. (Yes I know there are very good teachers - my parents were among that group, but most of their colleagues were flat out THICK)

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Re: Many tools for the job?

"and Microsoft isn't going to fund actual education."

Black & Decker aren't going to fund metalwork or woodworking classes either.

It's Microsoft's job to supply the tools. Anything else they do is icing on the cake. It's the school's job to provide the actual 'education' part. By offering industry-standard tools that students will actually encounter in the real world at a massive discount (and effectively for free for many students), Microsoft are reducing the total funds required for that education.

Sure, you could use Libre/OpenOffice, but it simply isn't that good. If it was, businesses would have standardised on them long ago. They are, after all, free. If you can't even gain market share by giving your product away for nothing, the problem isn't your competition. It's you.

Support counts for a lot. As does (relatively) easy customisation and extensibility, as well as a huge ecosystem of third-party applications that plug into the Microsoft Office suite. Companies like SDL, who create translation software, rely on MS Office being installed to handle the preview feature for Word-supported file formats, for example.

Libre/OpenOffice (as well as Apple's own "iWorks" suite) originally competed with Microsoft Works, not Microsoft Office. Sadly, Microsoft axed Works a long time ago, but it seems the *Office communities haven't really understood what it is that makes businesses so willing to pay licenses for Microsoft's products regardless. It's not merely inertia.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Many tools for the job?

"It's Microsoft's job to supply the tools."

No, its Microsoft's job to extract maximum shareholder returns. They've identified an angle involving the education section which seems to be particularly lucrative, as well as laying the foundations for future markets.

Whether this is good or bad for the students is utterly irrelevent to them, unfortunately.

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FAIL

Re: Many tools for the job?

"...-- and Microsoft isn't going to fund actual education."

Ahhh...you would be wrong.

"As one of the largest software vendors in the world, Microsoft Corporation provides financial resources for educational institutions, faculty, and students. These include donations of software, technology services, curriculum, training, internships, and scholarships, as well as cash awards. Microsoft education grants are available to K-12 and higher-education institutions worldwide."

http://www.ehow.com/list_6905111_microsoft-education-grants.html

http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-us/leadership/programs/Pages/index.aspx

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Microsoft education grants?

Yes, I'm quite familiar with these "grants", having worked on several school committees to apply for them. They *always* have strings attached, which *always* involve formally exposing students to Microsoft products.

As an AC recently remarked, Microsoft's primary responsibility is to their shareholders... and it shows.

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Re: Many tools for the job?

"most of whom are teachers because they can't get jobs anywhere else"

Teachers are trained, qualified professionals, but there are a few bad apples. The real problem is that parents range from really good to "not capable of operating a contraceptive", and politiicans expect teachers to make up for the damage done in the first 5 years and out of school hours for the rest.

Performance-related pay for teachers? Fine, if the teachers get to impose rewards or penalties on the parents for what the parents give the teachers to work with.

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Devil

"Let me just slip the head in ... "

Momma upstairs heard the young man, and yelled down to her daughter: "Katrina, beware! A prick has no shoulders!"

Sure, a free offer from MS ... and their PR department can send slick & shiny brochures to all the parents promoting this amazing new FREE program for the kiddies ... if only the parents will encourage the school authorities to get on board with licensing.

Once hooked, soon reeled in.

Or pregnant.

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Pint

Wow...

That's a somewhat more vivid image than the proverbial camel's nose under the tent...

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Joke

Re: Wow...

An image more like a camel's toe under the tent?

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Linux

public money...

it is a shame that a purchasing provision cannot be made that all public money must be spent on sustainable software i.e. FOSS, (or the hardware equivalent) or if a company provides some proprietary software it must be contractually obliged to provide a means of porting proprietary data to a non-proprietary format before the end of the contract with penalties for non-compliance.

There wold be no problems paying M$ for an office suite, but they have to be compelled to make it FOSS compatible. If the FOSS doesn't exist, they must create it to gain a contract.

Private corps can do what they want, but it would help if public money was only spent on enriching the public.

This is sort of what the NIH has being doing with journals, if you want the cash you must signup.

Is this too radical or not radical enough?

P.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: public money...

I suppose it comes down to the whole argument of what is meant by 'free'. Is entering a contract with Red Hat a good use of taxpayers money, even though it is Open Source? Similarly are proprietary Windows programs which don't cost anything - e.g. Classic Shell to be avoided? Do we want to just save taxpayers money, or promote an ideology.

My own preference would be for schools to teach the advantages and disadvantages of both Open Source and proprietary software. For the actual software they use, then if students can do everything they need to learn on Linux + Libre Office, then it is a no-brainer. I don't know how possible it is to use Linux exclusively in an educational establishment, as I don't work in that field. However I'm more concerned about ipads and the like drifting into schools, than a reliance on Windows, due to the creation vs consumption argument. I know you can use ipads like a "computer", but a grounding in word processing in either Office or Libre Office, setting up a printer or a knowledge of drag and drop file systems, be it in Nautilus in Gnome 2 or Windows 7 Explorer, is far more useful, than fondling a tablet.

At the state school a friend of mine sends her daughters, they have recently started getting ipads in. The result being the daughters keep pestering them to buy ipads, despite having a perfectly good Windows desktop, which they are not interested in using. If I was to interview someone who's technological skills basically started and ended at operating an Iphone, I would not be impressed.

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Re: public money...

I agree with AC.

We are a software developer and we develop software that runs under Windows and Linux. Our server side and factory floor software runs almost exclusively on Linux, whilst the back office stuff runs on Windows and integrates into MS Office for ease of reporting and analysing results.

We use a mixture of FOSS and proprietary software in our products, for example we use SUSE Enterprise Linux or CentOS, but we also use IBM's Informix as a database platform.

We use best fit. In some places FOSS works very nicely, in others it is cheaper to buy a proprietary product than to mess about trying to get a FOSS solution to meet our needs or writing something from scratch.

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Megaphone

Re: public money...

Well a natural extension of my comment is that public money could be used to CREATE the FOSS for schools. Or hospitals. Or whatever.

The point is, software should be fit for purpose. This is not cutting edge science. We know how to create these tools, and the "market" based approaches simply create wall gardens.

If you the $USER don't like libreoffice you can at least try an improve it. If you the $SCHOOL want don't like libreoffice as it is , invest the money and pay to upgrade. If $COUNTY asked?

if $COUNTRY did it just imagine how polished it could be made?

Is the "delta" between FOSS now and what is required so large?

Use the free market by all means, but these are massive contracts. Surely we can write the terms for a common goal?

P.

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I'm still using Office 2000

It doesn't need activation over the internet and it runs in WINE. Am I missing out on anything?

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Re: I'm still using Office 2000

I think you missed the talking paper clip. And pivot tables.

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And this behaviour is...

...different to the "free" 'Google for Education' how?

My kid's school has just mandated the use of Chromebooks* next year thereby sucking the kids further into the Chocolate Factory vortex than they already were.

At least M$ are upfront about being in this game for a profit.

*yes, I know that they don't *need* a Chromebook to use Google for Education but you try telling that to the school, and they won't believe you.

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Re: And this behaviour is...

@Simon Smith 1: "My kid's school has just mandated the use of Chromebooks* next year"

Do you mean here "Chromebooks in Maine 207"

https://sites.google.com/a/maine207.org/chromebooks/

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Devil

365 ProPlus

A vain attempt by MS to keep people awake at their latest new cloud release...

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Hipocrisy

I somehow miss similar article about Linux and other FLOSS software. Because, you know, those are also all free. Even more free than is the Office or Windows the kids get, because they can even make copies of FLOSS software and distribute those to their friends, parents, or even to complete stranger.

That, however, is obviously not a problem. Ie. that FLOSS software makes them "addicted" to FLOSS software, because of being free. On the other side, when Microsoft software is offered free, then it's even worser than offering them drugs.

Hipocrity much?

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Re: Hipocrisy

"when Microsoft software is offered free, then it's even worser than offering them drugs."

You obviously missed the bit about the school having to be fully paid up to MS, using public money, to get this. You see, that is the point, MS never offers anything for "free", it always comes with restrictions and is simply there to get them while young.

Now MS are a business, and making money is fine if it is done by honest competition and offering the best products. Some of MS' products are very good, but others are not so good and they also have a long and inglorious history of abusing their oligopoly on the PC desktop and OEM relationship to kill competition rather then to make something better.

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Re: Hipocrisy

Some licensing models practically give office away anyway. It depends on what you are doing and how you centrally manage rollouts of software etc.

Libre Office is a pain in the arse to configure centrally for my 400 PCs that use different "levels" of users. Some users might be allowed to change templates, some might be able to set global styles, some might have the use of grammar and spell check (exam users cannot for some exams), some users can change themes etc etc. Office lets me do all of this through group policy whereas libre office does not. In fact, in libre office you need to set certain registry entries (plus "local machine" of all places - GRRRRR) and change files within the installation directories - these areas are normally locked off to ALL users this presents a problem, either I treat all LO users as "one" or I lax my security to enable additive changes.

Some GPOs can change certain settings as SYSTEM but others need to be run as user.

So LO might well be FOSS but the upkeep costs me in time and man hours. Office is fire and forget (has been for me since 2003 anyway). Note I *do* maintain a LO installation too as IGCSE ICT mandates multiple packages.

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Linux

Re: Hipocrisy

i don't know much about a group of 400 but I do maintain 2. That is me and my Uni self ;-)

May I suggest that in all things like configuration you simply control write access for common and use groups to determine what each "user" gets.

I am of course talking about Linux... you used the word "registry" so I imagine you are shackled to M$...

Please forgive me if I underestimate your chore....perhaps someone proposing a solution would make your like easier ;-)

That's the beauty of FOSS...

P.

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Re: Hipocrisy

> Libre Office is a pain in the arse to configure centrally for my 400 PCs ...

Then you are not very skilled in systems administration. I don't pretend to know what MS people do, but in the Unix/Linux world suitable skels are set up in minutes. Then hundreds of users can be rolled out in seconds. The productivity of moderately skilled Unix/Linux sysadmins is many times that of their MS counterparts, and the operating costs reflect that. It is only among the semi-skilled ranks that MS Windows admin has parity, or perhaps a small advantage. But then without the inefficiencies of MS software there would be a lot fewer jobs in IT support.

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This is a defensive move, not an aggressive move, as Office moves further along the path to commodity software. There are no official Office clients on 95% of the tablets or phones, and the browser version is hardly better than Google (in fact, in collaboration capabilities and third party integration it's worse). This is why Microsoft has to give it away. But schools are switching to Chrome OS not because Google Docs is better than Office , but because the hardware and OS is more cost effective than Windows on a laptop. Any ICT teacher knows that there is no point teaching kids Office; Office 2013 skills are not going to be very relevant to employability when they graduate.

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I've got the official Microsoft Office 365 app on my smartphone and my tablet... (Samsung Galaxy SIII and Samsung ATIV 500 respectively).

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