Microsoft Offers Free XBox 360 With Purchase of Qualifying PC

Microsoft offers student discounts on a range of software products, but the company's announcement today is a first. Writing for the Windows Team Blog, Kristina Libby notes that the company "come up with a way to help you succeed in the coming year, while building on the fun and friendships that are key to your life. Starting May 22, when students buy a Windows PC over $699, they will receive a free XBox 360.*

The XBox in question is the XBox 360 4G. While it lacks its big brother's internal hard drive, the system  does include 4GB of onboard flash storage. It includes the other updates to the XBox 360 S, including five USB 2.0 ports instead of three, and a customized USB port for Kinect. 802.11n wireless and S/PDIF are both supported internally with no need for an external adapter. The 4GB model also supports Microsoft's custom hard drive interface (the drive itself costs $129). Users can also eschew that option and save data via USB 2 flash drive.

Samsung's Series 9. Extremely attractive--and expensive.

According to Redmond, customers can buy "any kind of PC." It specifically recommends the HP Pavilion DM4, the Dell Inspiron 14r, and the Samsung Series 9. Of the three, the Series 9 is by far the most expensive—the Dell and HP systems start around $599-$650; the Series 9 is priced at $1649. All Microsoft recommends are notebooks, but the company never says the promotion is limited to mobile products. We're guessing the mobile focus has more to do with the targeted college student demographic then an inherent limitation on the campaign's options.

The qualification process is simple. Any student with a .edu email address can purchase a system via a participating online retailer. Those who prefer to buy in person need only bring their student ID into participating locations. There's apparently some flexibility to the program—HP Canada has set a $599 price point (HP US has yet to make a statement regarding the promotion.) Similarly, OEMs may be allowed to selectively apply the offer to certain products. The campaign won't start until May 22; we'll have to wait to see what manufacturers do with it.

There doesn't seem to be any contractual "gotchas" to this deal. The post notes that an XBox Live subscription is necessary for online multiplayer gaming, but states that this service is sold separately. We've a feeling the deal could end up being quite popular with students who aren't particularly interested in keeping the XBox. Combine this offer with some of the across-the-board discounts offered during back-to-school season, and savvy customers may be able to line up 10-20 percent price cuts and a console they sell over Ebay for $150-$200. We're not condoning something Microsoft's terms and conditions almost certainly prohibit—but we won't deny people are likely to try it, either.

If you've never owned an XBox but been curious to try one, this is a pretty darn good offer.