Microsoft beats illegal downloaders by giving Office 2010 for free

Microsoft is aiming to beat a couple of illegal downloaders by offering 2,010 free copies of the new Office 2010 RTM.

The software package is worth a hefty $499 and is set to launch to the general public on June 15. To get budding secretaries and fill-the-blanks salivating Microsoft has organised a clever little competition called the Microsoft Office Social Media Challenge Sweepstakes. It could have added a few more words to up the search page rankings, but let’s not get greedy now.

The competition basically involves Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, three of the most popular social sometimes-but-usually-notworking sites, and requires potential winners to advertise the latest incarnation of Office to all their friends and family. 

“Challenges will be announced on these networks throughout the month,” said Doug Kim, managing editor of Office Online.

These challenges will take the form of prompts, which people will have to respond to in a timely fashion. An example given by Microsoft is the prompt of “Share an Office 2010 tip. Be the first person to respond via a ‘tweet’ to @Office with the #Office2010tip tag to win a copy of Office 2010.” That’s a pretty good way to get thousands of people talking about Office and trending some of Microsoft’s hashtags. If it takes off, which it may not.

Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has been rather vocal about software piracy lately, particularly in China, which isn’t generating as much revenue as he would like. Giving away free copies of software probably isn’t the answer, but at least there’s some advertising to be had from it. 2,010 copies is also a rather small number considering how many people use Office, but then with Apple upsetting Ballmer by taking the financial lead the Vole probably has to sell a few copies as well.

Unfortunately only Americans can apply. It’s piracy for the rest of the world, then.