LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available to all U.S. schools, public or private, from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
The program is meant to create a safer online environment for children, but also promote use of Bing, which trails market leader Google.
Microsoft Corp. is also giving away a first-generation Surface tablet computer to schools where community members sign up to use the ad-supported version of Bing outside of the school.
The program is tailored so that 60 parents and friends who do 30 Bing searches a day can earn their school a Surface in a little over a month. There is no limit on the number of Surface devices a school can earn.
Microsoft has some unsold inventory of the first generation Surface in stock after booking a large write-down on the devices last year.
Matt Wallaert, a Microsoft employee who created the “Bing in the Classroom” program, said the company hopes that some of the program’s goodwill leads to more Bing usage.
“We absolutely are an ad-supported business, but we think that schools are not the time and place for that,” he said. “Obviously we hope that parents will hear that message and want to use Bing at home.”
Google Inc. says it has offered ad-free search and email for schools through its Google Apps for Education product since 2007.
Microsoft also has created some 500 lesson plans that encourage the use of search to answer questions. The questions aren’t the kind that can be answered by just typing them into the search field.