Instead, students this year get the usual 10% discount and a $100 software gift card


We always thought of the iPod touch that Apple AAPL offered students as part of the company’s annual “Back to School” sale as the equivalent of a narcotics dealer’s free sample: a gateway drug that left users craving for an iPhone.

To the dismay of much of the class of 2011, Apple has dropped the popular loss leader in the promotion that launched Thursday on its online store. Instead, it offers the usual 10% discount on a Mac and a $100 gift card that can be used at the Mac App Store, the iOS App Store, the iTunes Store or Apple’s iBookstore. Heavily promoted: Apple’s iWork software suite — Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Too bad the $100 can’t be used for Microsoft MSFT Office, which for better or worse is still the standard at most colleges and universities.