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Red Hat begins education discounts

The company's discount program is meant to attract students and educational institutions, a strategically important customer set for technology companies.

Red Hat began a discount program Wednesday to attract students and educational institutions, a strategically important customer set for technology companies.

As first reported by CNET, the discount will mean students can buy a version of the company's desktop software for $25 per year, and schools can buy the server software for $50 per year. The options include software updates but no telephone support from Red Hat.

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The two products are academic versions of the company's Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS software, in the case of the desktop software, and RHEL AS for the server. The discounted software is available in the United States and will be extended elsewhere shortly, Red Hat said.

Technology companies aggressively court customers in the education market as a way to create allegiance among future technology experts and purchasers. And in the open-source world of Linux, educational institutions are crucial partners in developing the software as well as using it.

Schools also are a sizable market, with $9.5 billion in computer spending expected in 2006, according to a study by research firm IDC.

Linux's open-source nature makes it a good foundation for software tinkering and experiments, so it has long been popular in the education market. Red Hat, however, encountered a backlash among education users when it stopped making its corporate product available for free.

Also as expected, Red Hat began selling a subscription plan under which schools may offer students and administrators an unlimited number of RHEL WS installations for $2,500 per year.

Red Hat Chief Executive Matthew Szulik has made impassioned exhortations to look at the educational environment not as a market opportunity to be exploited but as a place where corporate investments will produce future technology and economic growth.

Red Hat's chief Linux competitor, SuSE Linux, began an education discount program in November.