Microsoft is conducting an exhaustive survey of its users and, mindful of the time and effort involved in responding to such a study, the company is offering a copy of Office 2000 Premium to all qualifying participants.
As the software will sell for an estimated $799 at retail outlets, the reward makes this the largest research incentive ever offered by the company.
Conducted by market research firm Griggs-Anderson Research, the lengthy survey is designed to gauge usage patterns of Office users, Microsoft confirmed.
"It's the biggest incentive offer by Microsoft ever," said a representative of Griggs-Anderson. "It's because [the survey] is so lengthy."
Although initially targeted at names in Griggs-Anderson's database, news of the survey quickly circulated on the Internet. "This is a nice way to get a copy for free," said Nate Mook, Webmaster of the BetaNews beta testing Web site, which first reported the study and its incentives.
Microsoft itself is apparently encouraging a word-of-mouth campaign. "If you know any other Microsoft Office users whom you think might like to earn valuable Microsoft software by participating in this survey, just ask them to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org," according to the instructions from Microsoft. "They will then automatically receive instructions on how to participate in the study."
Some users who have complained about Microsoft's pricing for the soon-to-be-released office suite are seizing the opportunity to receive the pricey applications for free. The company has raised the price from $599 for Office 97 to $799 for Office 2000.
"Microsoft is charging insane prices for Office 2000," said Mook. "I just completed [the survey] after about 2-3 hours of work. It will be worth it once I get a copy of Office though. It beats paying 800 bucks," he said.
Microsoft beta testers are also annoyed because the company is only charging $20 for the latest beta version of the suite, Mook said. "Beta 2 may be not feature complete, but it was only $20," Mook said. "If Beta 2 didn't expire I'd continue using that, because a few more features and a few less crashes is sure as hell not worth $779."
Although only a limited number of users are needed for the research, the study was still taking new candidates today. Users must answer several preliminary questions to qualify.
"When we ask, 'Where do you want to go today?,' we really want to know. This survey offers you an opportunity to personally influence the development of future versions of Microsoft Office," according to the emailed invitations from Microsoft and its research firm.