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Office 2000 giveaway tries to avoid earlier pitfalls

Microsoft is rewarding participants of a survey with free copies of the recently released Office 2000 software suite, apparently undeterred by the results of the last such attempt.

    Microsoft is rewarding participants of a survey with free copies of the recently released Office 2000 software suite, apparently undeterred by the results of the last attempt at such a giveaway.

    Subscribers to Microsoft's Office News Service received emails today informing them they are eligible to receive a free copy of the popular Office 2000 software package if they qualify to participate in the study. The software suite includes the newest versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and FrontPage as well as other productivity applications.

    The software maker tried a similar plan earlier this year but had to abort the project when it was overwhelmed by people looking for free software. The effort, which featured a lengthy questionnaire on Office 97 user habits, left many who were shut out confused or frustrated.

    This time around, the company says only those invited by Microsoft can participate in the survey. Microsoft is conducting the study in partnership with market research firm Griggs-Anderson, which will analyze the data.

    A Microsoft spokesperson could not confirm the giveaway.

    In the past, many Microsoft customers have been eager for the chance at free Windows and Office applications, complaining about the high prices the company charges for its products, including Office 2000, which has an estimated retail price ranging from $499 to $799.

    The participants who are approved will be asked to download a special version of Word 2000 that tracks the usage of specific features in Word, such as the spell-checker and templates. Microsoft will not collect or store any personal information or data contained in the documents, the company says, but at the end of the study users will have to turn in a disk with their usage information.

    "If you are interested in helping to make future versions of Word even better by taking part in a study Microsoft is conducting, please read on," the email to registered Office users reads.

    Those who participate will receive the retail version of Office 2000 Premium Edition, worth $799. Plus, the email states that participants will also get an additional Microsoft software title of their choice, including Outlook 2000, Expedia, Windows 98, Encarta, and Golf 99, among others.

    Last February, the company was flooded with requests for free software when it conducted a similar survey. Microsoft was forced to shut the offer down after a week. At the time, the company said it was evaluating plans to re-launch the survey at a later date.

    Microsoft's new application form takes less than 10 minutes to complete, according to the email from the company. At the end of the survey, participants will be asked to complete a 45-minute questionnaire.