Sunday, April 21

Microsoft, students gain from mutual patronage


Don’t look now, but Bill Gates and Microsoft Corp. have
taken to UCLA’s South Campus ““ to the benefit of UCLA
students, faculty, and of course, Microsoft.

UCLA is signed up with the MSDN Academic Alliance, a program for
technical departments in the area of computer science, engineering
and information systems. As a subscriber, UCLA receives Microsoft
platform servers and expensive developer tools software.

The alliance even allows UCLA faculty and students with a
SEASnet account to download the software
(http://download.seas.ucla.edu/) to install on their PCs.
Microsoft’s one restriction is the software must be used for
“instructional and research purposes.”

The alliance has allowed the School of Engineering and Applied
Science to load our computer labs with all the latest and greatest
software. Need the newest version of WinXP? How about the most
complete version of Visual Studio? Not a problem, it’s all
free to a few thousand lucky students.

But that’s not all.

Microsoft decided to take it a step further ““ for years
now, the company has literally been handing over shrink-wrapped
copies of Microsoft Visual Studio to students taking the Computer
Science 31 and 32 series classes.

While most students use the software developer tools in Visual
Studio to create and debug their programs, other cash-strapped
undergraduates have taken a less ethical approach to the expensive
software bundle handed to them.

Three years ago, I was handed a copy of Microsoft’s Visual
Basic. At that time, these software bundles were selling for a few
hundred dollars on eBay.

Any student with an unethical bone in their body and an eBay
account could have sold the software and reaped the immediate
benefits ““ thanks to Microsoft.

But Microsoft could care less that a handful of students are
profiting off of the free software they’re being given.
Chances are, given the demographic of students who were receiving
the software, they’d probably take the money and turn around
to buy an Xbox.

But the software giant didn’t get to where it is today by
simply giving away their software ““ well, they sort of
did.

One of the company’s listed goals is “to build a
community of instructors who can share curriculum and other
learning resources to support the use of these technologies.”
All in the name of “academics,” right? Wrong.

Microsoft wouldn’t be in this alliance if it didn’t
have something to gain.

What Microsoft is really saying is they know there are over
4,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the SEAS at UCLA. And
in the very near future, these students are the same people who
will be buying and using developer tools software and managing
servers and working with computer operating systems.

Familiarizing them now with the different software products
Microsoft has to offer will ensure brand familiarity and loyalty in
the future, which translates into life-long customers and a
continued dominance in market shares over competitors.

Expand the academic alliance to major universities throughout
the country, and suddenly Microsoft looks pretty smart for offering
all this software at a bargain price to universities.

Think of it as a necessary means of propagating the species of
Windows-based users and Visual-based developers.

But before the Microsoft haters jump on the company, realize
that universities have a whole lot to gain from this alliance as
well. They get the latest and greatest software, their faculty and
students are happy, and software upgrade costs are kept low,
leaving the school with more money to spend elsewhere.

Thus far, the alliance is working flawlessly ““ Microsoft
products are getting excellent exposure, universities are receiving
quality software, and I’m loving my new WinXP.

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