From Kickstarter to a traditional bridal registry, crowdsourcing funding for a special project or the next step in life isn't a new idea. But Microsoft has created Chip In, a unique program that focuses directly on helping students crowdsource funding for a new computer to be used for school.
The Chip In process is simple. Students choose the computer they'd like, create a profile and then link that profile to others through social media, where recipients can donate toward the purchase price. When the goal is met, Microsoft — which has contributed to the cost burden by lowering prices by 10% — ships the computer to the student pre-loaded with Office 365 software.
The 15 currently-available options range from a Sony all-in-one desktop at $1,169 to an ASUS ultraportable at $404, with tablets and other portables and desktops from a range of manufacturers in between.
David Nagel of THE Journal details the software package that Microsoft will include on its Chip In PCs:
In addition to the computer, Microsoft is providing students with a four-year subscription to Office 365 to the first 10,000 students whose computers are funded by Sept. 1. The Office 365 applications can be downloaded to up to two devices. The service also provides an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 Skype "world minutes."
Microsoft also includes free shipping and pays sales tax on the device.
When students raise the full amount for their desired PC, they will receive a promotional code allowing them to order the computer. If more than $499 is raised but less than the target device, students will be allowed to spend that money on other products in the Microsoft Store.
If the goal isn't met and the $499 threshold isn't reached, contributors won't be charged at all.
Chip In is available to full- or part-time students with a .edu e-mail address or proof of student status. The program will run from now to September 1, 2013.
The timing of Chip In coincides nicely with graduation season by allowing grads to make a registry that can help them get the right computer for college in the fall.
The timing isn't just a benefit to consumers, though — it's a move to compete with Apple's aggressive âback to school' promotions.
Microsoft's operating system market share in 2000 clocked in at 97% of all devices; now it hovers around 20%, with much of that ground lost to Apple and its iOS on a range of devices from phones to traditional computers.
Apple has historically been strong in the K-12 and post-secondary education markets — markets in which Microsoft would like to compete more strongly, even if they do it by helping consumers one at a time.