MS Buying Schools

By on August 26, 2003

Is Microsoft bribing schools to focus on its software? Interesting Washington Post article on the subject.

No one can dispute Microsoft’s dominance in the classroom and elsewhere, but that dominance certainly didn’t result from quality software. Tobacco companies have been criticized for marketing their wares to hook kids; is Microsoft’s offering sweetheart deals to schools any more appealing?

I went to my 13 year old’s 8th grade Parent/Student orientation last night, and learned that the Computer Applications class he will be taking will focus solely on M$ Office applications. True, most kids will end up using those apps for their homework, but is that a good thing?



  1. Wouldn’t we complaining if they weren’t teaching kids these apps?

    After all,like it or not, these are the apps that they will have to use both in college and in the work force. It would be nice to see them show kids Linux and etc in the advanced classes, but if you’ve not used Word, Excel, and Outlook, you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage in the workforce.

  2. But the point is, would the MS apps be so dominant in education if it weren’t for MS’s “generous” contributions to both lower & higher education? Think about the “educational discounts” offered by MS; they practically give their software away to educators, students & schools. Meanwhile, kids from grade school all the way through college are getting a steady fix of nothing but MS apps — talk about encouraging computer illiteracy.

    I just feel that schools do a great disservice to their students by givinig them “one size fits all” software instruction. And Microsoft is happy to help them do it. It’s marketing through indoctrination, not innovation.

  3. Yeah, but Apple did this for years. It used to be that Apples were the only type of machine you could find in schools. Apple has been over-represented in the education sector for as long as I can remember.

  4. Apple lost big time in the educational sector several years ago. And even in their heyday, it was only in K-12. And even there, it was mainly hardware; most of the software being used was 3rd party.

    The question to ask is whether Microsoft would have been able to gain such a hold on the education market if it weren’t for their policy of gross “generosity” toward the schools. And was that policy motivated by benevolence or long-term profit?

  5. I still don’t get it. I’m watching the news tonight. Nearby Fairfax County (in VA) has to disinfect literally thousands of machines. Moreover, they’re going to need to updgrade all the operating systems.

    I have to wonder the sense in this over creating diskless workstations using Knoppix to boot and a central server to stow the kid’s work.

    No infection, no high cost of licensing, and essentially the same software and services as one gets with Microsoft.

  6. What upsets me is when products, specific products from specific vendors, are written into school curriculum. That’s just wrong. Teach kids how to use a word processor. That should be the goal, not teaching kids how to use Word. Teach kids to use a GUI; the goal is not learning to use Windows. Even if Microsoft is still dominant in the business world when the kids graduate (which they likely will be, but no one knows the future), what they use will may still be drastically different. Teach them concepts, not products.

  7. Thank you Brad. “Teach them concepts, not products.” That’s exactly it. I want my kids to be able to think on their feet, not to be told how to think.

    And the same is true at the college level; if you read the article, lots of classes are being structured around specific software tools. Sure the students become proficient with those tools, but are they really getting the concepts behind the tools?

    As for the TI calculators, I’m helping my 13-year old buck the system in his Algebra 1 class by giving him a Palm M100 with scientific calculator software on it. Total cost for a 2nd hand Palm and software is around $60, vs. $120 for a TI-83 (IF you can find one!) His teacher even thought it was a good idea. Added bonus is that he can use it for a lot more than what the TI can do.

  8. Good for you Dave! Another one I heard this week was that students in a local school had to have not just crayons, but Crayola crayons.

    I’ll stop now.

  9. Incidentally, that comment about wasn’t a joke. Seriously — children in the Sioux Falls public school system must have that brand of crayons this year.


    “Microsoft will give two-thirds of the unclaimed settlement to the California Department of Education, which will go to purchasing computer products for public schools with underprivileged students. While critics charge that much of the money could be funneled back to Microsoft if the department buys Microsoft products for schools, court-appointed counsel Eugene Crew disagrees: ‘We’re antitrust,’ he says. ‘We gave buyers the benefit of this settlement and they are free to spend it in an open marketplace, and on computers and printers, which Microsoft doesn’t sell.'”

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