My old friend Bryant Zadegan has a way of shining light on suspect and complicated imagery, especially news which contains baffling facts and multiple levels of discourse. Earlier on in the day, I received an instant message from him telling me to read his post, which points out a few things about The Ultimate Steal and DreamSpark, two offers provided by Microsoft, to students.
The Ultimate Steal offers both Windows Vista Ultimate and Office Ultimate 2007 at a fraction of a price of the recommended retail price. Not only that, the choice to upgrade to a Windows(RED) edition also makes the process seem more philanthropic by attributing funds to the AIDS cause.
But as Bryant points out, via the DreamSpark program, you can get the server alternative to Vista, Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition, for absolutely free. The similarities are uncanny, almost exactly the same as each other except, naturally, the server additions is better equipped to be running the back-end of an enterprise network.
Some features are not part of Windows Server 2008, such as the semi-essential Windows Media Center, which provided you have the necessary hardware, allows you to watch live television and radio directly on your computer. An upgrade which costs you money which at this time of year you may find yourself struggling to muster, or a free server operating system which appears ever so slightly differently from your standard Vista installation; I know which I would prefer.
DreamSpark is highly developer oriented, designed to ensure free developer tools are provided to students as many of them are in their hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The MSDN Academic Alliance is only open to universities which subscribe to the service, ultimately it costs the university if not the student directly, only offers software relevant to those subscribing. This may go as far as offering Windows and some Office applications, but unlikely.
The Ultimate Steal concerns me to some extent, because although it offers a very much discounted price, the element of a possible antitrust suit may not be far off. Microsoft were sued for €9 million (nearly $12 million) when the German regulatory body for the economy, the Bundeskartellamt, said Microsoft deliberately manipulated the pricing Office Home and Student 2007, the most common Office edition for students. Microsoft, via a spokesperson, said:
"We respect German competition law and are committed to running our business in full compliance with all German laws and regulations. We will use this case as an opportunity to review our internal commercial processes and ensure that we are in full compliance with [the] law."
But, as a cheap and/or free, fully licensed and genuine copy of Windows is hard to come by nowadays, both Bryant and myself agree, you should jump at the chance to get a cheap copy of Office Ultimate 2007 and Vista Ultimate and hold off on the beer for a couple of weeks.
Updated: Just found out SharePoint Designer 2007 (formerly "FrontPage") is now free for anyone to download. You can grab it here.