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  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Ultimate Steal - Office 2007 offer Update


    We've made a few changes to the Ultimate Steal website (Office 2007 Ultimate for students, for £38.95), all of which are good news. Here's what we've done:

    Added the Backup DVD option to the ordering options
    To be honest, we have been trying to put this here ever since launch, but some technical glitches stopped us. It's now there, so students can order media at the same time as ordering the licence. This is handy if they don't want to use the download service, or they want a backup.

    Added email verification BEFORE entering the purchasing process

    We've been getting hundreds of students who have incorrectly entered their email address during the purchase process, which means they haven't received their licence key after purchase. It's tricky for us to resolve these individual problems quickly, and also inconvenient for students. So now, before you get to the online shop process, you have to provide your student email address (ending in and then get an email confirmation and website login. This way, if you put in the incorrect email address, you won't get your website login - you'll have to go back and enter it again correctly.

    Even more reasons to tell your students about the Ultimate Steal

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Ultimate Steal is back


    The moment you’ve been waiting for? Last year we ran a promotion called “The Ultimate Steal”, which offered a full copy of Office 2007 Ultimate Edition to students for £38.95. And, finally, it’s back!


    In a nutshell, The Ultimate Steal is:

    • A time-limited offer available to your university students with a email address (ends at the end of June next summer)
    • For Office Ultimate 2007, which can cost up to £500 to buy the retail version, as a digital download, with the option to buy a backup on DVD for £9.95
    • Also available to your university staff, if they have a email address

    Most students arrive on your campus with a laptop computer, but don’t always have the right software on it to help them with their studies. And our research said that they typically think that Office costs £100-£150 for a basic version. So instead of spending the money, most of them “borrow” a copy from a friend or parent.

    We’ve always made lower cost Academic licences available, but very few students know about them, or how to buy them. So that’s why we run The Ultimate Steal – it’s a way of helping students buy the right software, at the right price, as they come back onto campus.

    Like last year, we're not going to spend lots of money advertising this - for one thing, it is only available to students with a email address, and so putting adverts all over the media isn't going to work. Most students found out about the offer from a friend, or from their university – many universities emailed their students to let them know about the offer, or put links up onto their intranets & VLEs

    Buying on is easy – register with your student/staff email address, and then login and go.

    Shortly, I’ll post up a standard email that you could use to let your students & staff know about the offer.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    It's arrived - Office Ultimate 2007 for Students - for £38.95!



    We have been working on this for a while, and it has finally arrived. Yesterday we announced the availability of Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for UK Higher Education students, as a download, for £38.95.

    The headline summary is:

    It's a time-limited offer available to students with a email address as a digital download, containing the full Ultimate package.

    This is a pilot in a limited number of countries - UK, US, Canada, Spain, Italy and France - and it's good news that the UK is in the pilot. Most UK students think that Office costs £000's of pounds, and aren't very aware of the lower cost licences that have been available (for example, under the Select licence), so this makes it easier for them to buy a legitimate copy easily and cost-effectively.

    We're not going to spend lots of money advertising this - for one thing, it is only available to students with a email address, and so putting adverts all over the media isn't going to work. But we will be doing some on-campus promotions at some universities, using email to students, and many universities have already asked for posters and emails to send to their own students.

    If you'd like to get some posters, flyers, or want to check what you can email to your students, drop a line to Ceri Morriss in our HE team We're just about to post an email which you could use to let your students know about the offer. It's only a suggestion - you can use it or write your own to meet the needs of your specific student body!

    We're getting a few basic queries by email. Can I ask you to add them as comments on this blog instead, and we'll (a) guarantee to answer them more speedily and (b) we'll both be helping everybody by answering your questions publicly.

    All of the details are on the offer's website:

    ps Have you got questions? Add them as a comment, and then I'll answer them here - hopefully everyone else will benefit from the answer too!

    pps You need to login to add a comment (to avoid comment-spam).

    ppps If you really don't want to login and share your comments and our answers then you can contact us at

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Ultimate Steal - Staff now eligible


    With only three weeks to go, I can imagine this blog post could create some howls...but better late than never (even if the offer is only open for 3 weeks).

    We have just managed to convince all the powers-that-be that staff should also qualify for the Ultimate Steal. Until today, if members of staff in your university wanted a copy of Office, they could either buy the "Home & Student" version in a shop/online (at about £80-90), or use Home User Rights (if you allowed them, and you'd both agreed to the terms), or various other convoluted routes. But now we've managed to get the lawyers and licensing teams to agree to include staff into the Ultimate Steal offer.

    What does this mean?

    Staff can now purchase, for their own use at home, a copy of Office 2007 Ultimate Edition, for £38.95, via

    What's the qualifying criteria?

    The lawyers insisted there should be some qualifying criteria (after all, they argued, what happens if somebody is employed as a tea lady - do they qualify?) and so we created some with them. Hopefully it is easy for all of your staff to qualify - including the tea lady. There are just two simple criteria:

    1. Staff must hold a valid email address at a UK, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man educational institution, ending in either ‘’, ‘’, ‘’ or ‘’.


    2. You must be employed at an education institution geographically located in the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, for at least an average of 8 hours per week or 4 teaching hours per week

    Do we have to do anything?

    Nothing other than letting your staff know they've got 3 weeks (and counting) to take advantage of the offer - it closes on 30th April. If you want an email template, take a look at this post

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Preview - Mac Office 2008


    Around a year ago, Microsoft issued a press release announcing its intent to deliver Office 2008 for Mac.  Well, it seems that Microsoft is now even closer and there is a preview article on Computerworld with quotations from the Microsoft Mac Business Unit here.

    For a more detailed overview of what's under the bonnet on Mac Office 2008 then please visit this site.  It has some great graphics of the new release plus access to the Mactopia newsletter.

    The official release for Mac Office 2008 will be at Macworld where you can join Microsoft if you're lucky enough to be over there.

    I know of one University that has been on the beta for Mac Office 2008 and is ready to start installing the final release once they're able to get hold of it.  IMHO one of the main features of this new release is that it is all about re-connecting users with the power of Office.  As well as this, there are some significant updates to the components in the suite which should impress.

    I'm not a Mac user but I look forward to having a tour of Mac Office 2008 with friends and getting their opinion of the new version.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Letting your students know about the Ultimate Steal


    Last year, quite a few universities asked us for materials that they could use to let their students know about the Ultimate Steal offer (Office Ultimate 2007 for £38.95). And universities and colleges including Bristol, Kent, Stirling, Queens University Belfast, Salford, QMU Edinburgh, Bradford, Middlesex, Loughborough, Homerton College and Derby put up announcements last year on their student portal, or on their VLEs. This year, with staff also being eligible, we’ve already started to get queries from people asking for materials.

    Promoting on your university’s student website(s)


    To make it easier for you, we’ve created a range of graphics banners (all looking like the above) which you can download and use. They are all on my SkyDrive folder, or you can download them using the links below – the numbers represent the width x height:

    160 x 600 - Right click to download

    250 x 250 - Right click to download

    300 x 250 - Right click to download

    468 x 60 - Right click to download

    728 x 90 - Right click to download


    And if white’s really not your colour, then how about the “Grab It” banner above?

    640 x 164 “Grab It” banner - Right click to download

    Promoting by email to your students

    Many universities didn’t want their students to miss out on the offer and emailed them to let them know about it. If you want to take this option, there’s a standard email template to get you started

    Email template - Right click to download

    Flyers and Door HangersDoor_Hanger

    We have some packs of flyers and ‘door hangers’ available – just like the one on the right – that some universities have used. The door hangers were used in student accommodation, and the flyers have been placed either around campus, or specifically around the IT departments.

    If you'd like a pack of flyers etc, drop me an email with an address I can send it to.

    “But, why would we want to promote Microsoft’s offer?”

    And that’s a good question (Of course, I would say that, because I just wrote it!).

    Here are some of the reasons that universities have told me that they’ve wanted to tell their students:

    • Save their students money (because the “Home and Student” version in the shops costs more, and does less)
    • Being seen to be offering their students a better service
    • Make their life easier (eg if you have students with older, ropey copies of Office coming to you for support)
    • Improve the service from their Student Helpdesk
    • Help students improve the quality of their work, and collaborate with things like Groove
    • Reduce the number of dodgey DVD copies of software circulating on campus, which brings with it virus risks etc

    Last year, the buzz about The Ultimate Steal made its way around universities pretty quickly, but it’s fair to say that it was in an uneven way. This year, perhaps we can work better with you to make sure that none of your students pay too much for their copy of Office when they buy it.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    DreamSpark - Free software for your students



    I guess this will be pretty big news on the Internet. And if I've timed this right - and you're reading this just after I've blogged it - then you're one of the first to find out.


    We have launched a programme called "Microsoft DreamSpark", which allows university and college students to download a range of free development and design software resources to help them in their studies. The suites available include Visual Studio (described as "the Swiss Army knife of computer programming"), which is the kind of toolset which can help you programme everything from a computer, to a mobile phone, or a web page. It also includes the major applications in the Expression design suite - including Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design & Expression Media. And for development work, there's also SQL Server & Windows Server.

    From today, these are available to more than 6.5 million FE & HE students. Last year's survey co-sponsored with Intellect, the British Computer Society, and The City University, London demonstrated that the "Knowledge Economy" (is that a Microsoft-ism?) is the fastest growing part of the UK economy, and there's a real need to ensure that students have the chance to get the technical skills they may need to operate within it.

    Whilst it's easy to think that this will only be of interest to technical students, there's plenty of other areas affected - things like design, where digital design is one of the fastest growing areas; and the ability to manipulate and analyse masses of data seems to spread across most subjects.

    Students don't need to get additional validation or accreditation from their university or college to do this download - they can download as long as they have an Athens ID (that's pretty standard for all university students and most college students) or an ISIC card. For more info on the verification of UK students, take a look at Ed Dunhill's blog.

    There's more about this on Channel 8, and you can also read the press releases on PressPass

    At the moment, this is available in 10 countries, including the UK.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 – All of the Release Candidate DVD's have gone...


    Sorry, they've all gone now!

    Although you’ve probably already downloaded this over your megastream Internet links, I’ve laid my hands on some ‘Windows 7 Release Candidate’ DVDs just in case. Over the next week, I’ve got a series of blog posts planned to talk about some of the features of Windows 7 that will be particularly useful to universities, and you may want to install a copy of it, so that you can try them out in your particular situation. So if you’re interested in spending a little more time understanding what Windows 7 does, and have a spare computer hanging around, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    Four interesting things about this:

    1. “Release Candidate” (RC) is the penultimate release before we say “Yes, it’s definitely final and released”. Once we’ve done that, we then call it RTM, or Release To Manufacturing. This RC version is free to use for a year, whereas the RTM version is the final one that you pay for. (Of course, at the end of the year, you then need to upgrade to the released version or revert back to whatever your computer was previously licensed for)
    2. Although we generally advise you not to run the Release Candidate for business critical computers, I know quite a few education customers who already run it on their own laptops/netbooks. I have been running the beta (earlier) version of Windows 7 on my demonstration laptop since January, and have just moved my main laptop onto Windows 7. Because we like inventing new words at Microsoft, we call this “dog-fooding” (as in “We eat our own dog food”). Basically, it’s part of making sure that it’s good enough for you to use, by starting to run our business on it.
    3. This is the first time I can remember that the new version of Windows runs on lower spec hardware than the previous release! We’ve dragged a few older laptops out of various storage cupboards (where they’d been put because they ran Windows Vista poorly) and they all seem to cope quite well with Windows 7. I’ve also talked to a few customers in education who say that it good running on various netbooks, which have definitely been a challenge with Windows Vista.
    4. You should play around with the BitLocker feature, mentioned in the video accompanying yesterday’s blog post, because of the new mode called BitLocker to Go. This gives you encryption protection for USB Memory Sticks (think: ‘personal data loss’) but as I was reading a bit more about it last night, I discovered it also allows you to specify a default that any USB Memory Stick can be read, BUT only encrypted memory sticks can be saved to. This seems really useful in a school – it means that academics/students can be allowed to bring in their lesson plans/videos/pictures etc from home on a memory stick, but you can stop them copying data onto it.

    Anyway, if you’d like me to send you a installation DVD and you're in the UK, then email me and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

    (I'm afraid that if you're outside the UK, you'll need to download a copy - from this link)


    Small print: When they’re gone, they’re gone!

    Another bit of small print: We have copies for the 32-bit version. Somebody has just asked for a 64-bit, which we don't have, but you can download that from this link:

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Ultimate Steal Q & A


    I’ve had a few questions recently about the Ultimate Steal promotion – where students & staff with a “” email address can buy Office 2007 Ultimate for £38.95 for home use. Working on the assumption that other people are interested in the same questions, here’s my answers to the Ultimate Steal Frequently Asked Questions:

    What’s in the Office 2007 Ultimate version?

    Amazingly, I couldn’t find a table which compared the different versions of Office available for education – because both the home user versions and the business versions are relevant, and they’re normally on two different comparisons. So here’s my handy table of all of the educationally relevant versions of Office, and what’s in each one:


    Your university probably licences Professional (Plus) or Enterprise for your work use.

    And for your home computer, it’s most likely you’ll have Home & Student.

    Which is where the Ultimate Steal promotion comes in handy! It gives you everything - including Groove, which is a good way to securely synchronise files between multiple computers/users, and OneNote, for collecting text, web and multimedia information together as a series of note pages. Normally Office Ultimate would cost £500+ via a retailer, which is why we’re so strict about users needing a “” email address to qualify for The Ultimate Steal.

    Will there be an Ultimate Steal for Mac users?

    Yes, there will be, but it’s not ready yet - it’s due for release in January. The delay is waiting for the digital download version to become available. In the meantime, If you want a Mac version (sadly the download isn't available until late summer), and you’re a student, then pop over to one of our partners that sell educational licences for students. They are RM, Software4Students and the Pugh student shop, and from under £35...

    Can I use my Hotmail email address?

    The way we validate that you are a student is by sending your access code to your email address. So if you try to sign up with a hotmail/gmail/yahoo/ email address, then the system will tell you that it’s not valid. (Despite this, hundreds of students every week try, and then send us requests to let them use their hotmail address. But it’s not going to work :-)

    Where do I get support for Ultimate Steal?

    Before you ask, No, it’s not me!

    The Customer Support link on the Ultimate Steal home page not only answers 90% of the questions that people ask the support team, but also has a “Still need help?” section where you can contact the Ultimate Steal support team directly. Now, if you have given them a chance to help you, and not getting the support you need, drop me a line (using the Email link at the top of this page), then I can see if I can help. But please…give them a chance to respond first.

    One student (no naming & shaming) sent 7 emails to the support desk, put 3 comments on this blog, and then sent me 3 emails – all within a two hour block between 9pm & 11pm on one day. And still hasn’t responded to the email sent from the support desk the next day…

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Ultimate Steal Update


    There are some new changes to the the Ultimate Steal website (Office 2007 Ultimate for students, for £38.95, only available online). One of the most significant is that we now accept PayPal (and since we switched that on, it appears to be a popular method).

    When students buy their new laptops, before they arrive at university, they normally do it with Dad's credit card (in what one parent described to me as "the last big present" - they wish!). Once they reach uni, they are then on their own. We see that pattern too - we got a little peak of credit card orders when students went home for Christmas ("the last little present"?), but now they are back, and making their loan cheques last, it appears that PayPal is more popular.

    Just one more reason to tell your students about the Ultimate Steal

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