As reported by News.com, Microsoft launched a survey to gauge Office 97 user habits, according to the market research firm conducting the test, Griggs-Anderson Research. Because the questionnaire took roughly three to four hours to complete, Microsoft promised a free copy of Microsoft Office 2000 Premium to participants, a $799 value.
The incentive was the largest reward ever offered by the company for research, according to Griggs-Anderson. The software suite includes the newest versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and FrontPage as well as other productivity applications.
"We wanted to take a look at the way users of Office products are changing the way they work," said John Duncan, product manager for Office at Microsoft. "We want to keep our ear to the workplace."
The survey was shut down, however, due to overwhelming demand for the free software. Interested users who inquired today received the following message from the Microsoft Office Planning and Development Team: "Thank you very much for your interest in the MS Office Users Survey. Unfortunately, due to a far greater than anticipated response we are no longer accepting new respondents for this survey."
Yesterday, Microsoft was still encouraging participation in its "important marketing research survey," despite the expensive giveaway. "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," read the company's survey instruction email.
Although a "few thousand" applicants successfully returned the survey for free software before the site was flooded, Microsoft is still "evaluating" how to determine which applicants will participate in the survey and benefit from the offer, according to Duncan.
"On the one hand, the demand is something we're excited about. On the other hand, we have to reevaluate where we stand with the survey," he said. All survey participants who completed the study will receive their software, Duncan promised, but the company is still deciding how many more, if any, applicants the study can take.
"Users will hear back from us. We want to determine if the population [of survey applicanta] is representative of the different parts of our audience that we're looking at, which is diverse by size, diverse by expertise, and type of user," Duncan said.
Although no longer available, word of the freebie offer comes at a time when users are particularly frustrated with Microsoft's pricing. In a separate effort, another group of disgruntled users has banded together to take advantage of a previously overlooked clause in the company's user agreement entitling some Linux and Unix users to a refund.
In both cases, users seized upon the opportunity to grouse about the company's perceived pricing schemes. "I'm sick and tired of being gouged," wrote Amy Young-Leith, who applied for the study group but did not get in. "As a small-business owner who pays for all of my software, I sure as hell am not shelling out $799 for a word processor and spreadsheet program."
Microsoft defends its pricing as fair. "The key thing is that we're continuing to build more value into the product," said Duncan. "Consumers are getting a better economic value," he said.
"I have wasted a large portion of my day and I am disgusted that you have misled me for several hours by sending me an email inviting me to take part in a fictitious survey," said another person, who was excluded after starting the survey. "Please send me this survey so you can restore my faith in what I believed was an honorable company."