Microsoft’s got a search engine called Bing. You may not have heard of it, since Google gets most of the attention in the search market. But Microsoft would really like to get a few more people using Bing — and the company’s willing to give away free hardware and even forego some profit in order to do it.
The company has unveiled a new service called Bing for Schools which is an ad-free version of Bing which features automatic privacy protection and adult content filtering. Schools that sign up for the program can let kids using computers in class search the web without seeing ads or inappropriate content on the search results page.
Microsoft is also launching a program that lets schools earn free Surface RT tablets.
While the Surface RT isn’t exactly the most useful general-purpose tablet on the market, it does run Microsoft Office, have a decent web browser, and support for some third-party apps. It’s also not a bad choice for use in classrooms thanks to the optional keyboard cases which make typing easy on the tablets.
In order to earn tablets, schools will need to get people to use the Bing search engine, sign up for Bing Rewards, and use their credit toward donating Surface RT tablets to a school. It takes 30,000 credits to earn a tablet, which means that if you get about 60 parents, teachers, or other folks to use Bing Rewards, your school can earn a Surface RT tablet per month.
Microsoft’s Bing Rewards program isn’t just for altruistic types. You can also earn credits to buy gift cards for Amazon, Starbucks, Hulu Plus, and other goods and services.
Overall, Microsoft’s new programs make it easier for schools to get technology into the hands of kids, and provide a slightly safer search experience — although the emphasis on the ad-free experience in Bing for Schools seems a bit silly. While there may be no ads on the search results pages kids see, I suspect that unless all the results point to Wikipedia, students will be confronted with plenty of ads once they click on any search results.