Microsoft Debuts Crowdfunding Program For Student Laptops, Offers Office 365 Free To First 10K Participants

Microsoft is introducing a new pilot project today called “Chip In,” which sees the Windows-maker offering to help students crowdsource laptop purchases ahead of next school year. Students with a .edu email address can crowdfund laptop purchases of qualifying devices through the official Microsoft online store, and Microsoft will subsidize 10 percent of the purchase price itself, plus offer free copies of Office 365 University edition to the first 10,000 students to sign up for the program.

The Chip In promotion begins today and goes through September 1, so essentially spanning the entire summer for higher education students. The full list of eligible laptops includes 15 Windows PCs from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Microsoft. The Surface Pro and Surface RT are both included in the list, as are some marquee Windows 8 devices from third-party partners like the Lenovo Yoga and Asus Taichi. Microsoft’s 10 percent discount is automatically applied to the pricing of all those on the list, which you can see here.

While it’s intended for students, U.S.-based faculty and staff are also eligible to participate so long as they have a valid .edu address. To participate, choose a computer, create a profile page using your FB account and request that friends and family chip-in to help meet your funding goal. If you fulfill your goal, Microsoft sends out a promo code you can redeem to complete the purchase. There’s even a provision that allows you to put any amount earned above your goal (should a device go on sale or get a price cut) toward other devices and items in the Microsoft Store. If you fall short of your goal, but raise at least $499, you can still use those funds toward a device as well. If you don’t meet that amount, your contributors won’t be charged.

This goes above and beyond the usual back-to-school promotions and is actually a pretty good idea in terms of letting students leverage the good will of relatives and friends who might want to give them a graduation/off-to-college gift but can’t fork up enough for a new laptop all on their own. It might be slightly annoying seeing a lot of inbound requests from students begging for notebooks, but on balance it seems like a good idea, and a smart way for Microsoft to get more people on Windows 8.