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Windows 8.1 and Office 365 offered free to non-profits

Microsoft announced today that Windows 8.1 and Office 365 would be freely available to non-profit and charitable organisations around the world.

It is an expansion of Microsoft's software donation program, which is currently offered to more than 70,000 non-profits across 117 countries.

The idea of the programme is to provide these organisations with affordable access to the technology they need to support their work in local communities and, as Microsoft states on its website, "leverage technology to help them be more efficient, effective and innovative in doing their important work".

One possible concern for Microsoft is the loss of customers from such organisations, who may look to free and open-source platforms such as Linux in an effort to keep operating costs at a minimum.

Windows 8.1 was recently made available as a free upgrade to licensed users of Windows 8. To anyone else, the cheapest Windows 8.1 licences currently cost around £70.

Any non-profit organisation that is officially recognised as a charitable organisation in its own country is eligible for the scheme, which also offers free access to online training facilities. All that is required is that they sign up to Microsoft's Nonprofit Program.

"We're excited to announce the availability of Windows 8.1 for non-profits," said Microsoft's director of corporate citizenship Jane Meseck at the announcement. "Thanks to many of you, we received a tremendous response from the non-profit community around the world with the launch Windows 8."

"Eligible non-profit organizations and public libraries can request Windows 8.1 through Microsoft's software donation program."