New Microsoft Office University product comes with tougher verification rules

Microsoft is replacing its Office Academic SKU with a new Office University one that it hopes will help curtail fraudulent use.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Whenever folks complain about how expensive Microsoft's Office suite is, someone inevitably points out that the academic version is only about under $100 (usually around $80). And if you're not a student... no worries. You can use someone else's ID to buy it.

Microsoft officials know this, too. To help thwart non-students from getting an undeserved  deal on the Academic SKU -- which includes Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010, OneNote 2010, Outlook 2010, Publisher 2010, Access 2010, and Office Web Apps (the free, consumer-focused version of Microsoft’s Webified version of four of its Office apps) -- Microsoft is tightening the verification requirements.

On February 1, Microsoft quietly replaced the Office Professional Academic 2010 SKU with a new one called "Microsoft Office University 2010." The new SKU is for "higher-education" students and faculty only. "Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 is the recommended product for parents and families with K-12 students," according to a Microsoft frequently asked questions (FAQ) document. (There's a new comparable Office for Mac 2011 University SKU, too.)

C-FAX 1070 radio “Tech Talk” host Alan Perry is the one who alerted me to the new SKU, which Microsoft confirmed.

Office University 2010 includes the same point products as the former Academic Professional SKU. It costs $99 and can be installed on two PCs. But it has a new verification process, which works as follows, according to the FAQ:

Office University 2010 does not come with a product key. Your eligibility will be verified online before completing purchase. This product will not work without successful verification as you will not have a product key.

You will be required to verify your eligibility online to use this software. 1.Go to www.office.com/verify. 2.Sign in with your Windows Live ID or create one using any email address. 3.Provide your school email address, sign-in ID, or international student identity card (ISIC).

Once you pass verification, the online site displays the product key.

"The big change is the validation process, as you’ll see on the big warning stickers on the packaging," said Perry. "Up to now, if you could persuade someone to sell you a copy, (even if you weren’t a student or faculty) it was yours to use. The change appears to be an effort to curtail the large number of ineligible people buying the Academic versions."

Microsoft plans to offer a similar Office University SKU as part of its next versions of Office for Windows and Mac, Perry said the Softies told him.

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