March 11, 2013 at 7:40 PM ET
A new promotion from Microsoft gives students the opportunity to try their cloud-based app suite, Office 365, for six months free of charge. If they like it, they can even keep the subscription going at a major discount. But the deal ends fairly soon, so interested students need to sign up quick.
The deal could be a boon for students who specifically need Microsoft's apps; while there are free alternatives like Office's perennial rival Google Apps and LibreOffice, they don't always play nice with universities' existing systems. Having access to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite — and not just at the school's computer center — could be quite helpful. And getting thrifty students to try their pay service over competing free ones is good for Microsoft.
All one has to do is sign up with a .edu email address (other eligibility info is here), and three free months of Office 365 are granted, allowing full access to apps on up to two computers, and an extra 20GB of Skydrive space as a bonus. That three months can be extended to six by sharing the deal on Facebook.
When the free ride is over, students can opt to pay a hugely discounted rate to keep the service alive. $80 buys access for four years — quite a good deal, considering non-students must pay $100 per year for an equivalent subscription.
Students have a little time but shouldn't wait until next term to take advantage: The promotion ends May 12, or "while supplies last," although Microsoft running out of digital copies to give away is a strange notion. Once the deal is granted, however, users can wait up to year before redeeming their free trial.
Update: This article previously stated that the deal ends on March 12, not May 12. It has been changed to have the correct information.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.