The asterisk is because it's not actually free. It's $108 plus shipping/handling costs because you have to pay for a 12 month subscription to their services.
Still, for about 1,000,000 SNP genotyping, this is a darn good deal.
I shot Dr. Wu (the one who posted the blog article on the 23andMe blog announcing the deal) a note asking about whether we got raw data back:
I’m a little curious about the subscription.Her response:
We get the raw data to keep and the subscription is to be able to view the data using your tools? So even after the year subscription is up, we’ll have the data for ourselves, right?
Hi M.J. Clark,Sounds to me like we get whatever they qualify as "raw data" permanently regardless of the subscription, which is fantastic. Plus, gives those of us in the field something fun to play with.
Yes, you will always be able to download the raw data and retain access to content you had while you were subscribed. Some features, like the ability to Browse your raw data using our website, receipt of updates to your health reports and Relative Finder matches, and storage of your saliva sample (if you choose to biobank) may, however, be discontinued.
I'm not actually sure yet what we receive back in terms of raw data (or if they actually give you back raw data). It's currently their version 3 platform, which is a modified Illumina OmniExpress Plus Genotyping BeadChip. Seems their v2 "raw data" took the form of simply genotype calls, positions and rsids. Not sure if that's all you get with v3 (but I'll ask and update later).
I'm interested for myself, of course, but if your lab has five or fewer human samples (per lab member) you've been meaning to get 1,000,000 SNP genotyped and you don't care about which specific platform it is, this is probably the best deal you'd get for a while. Food for thought! (Then again, why are you still genotyping? Go exome-seq those things!)
Update (18:40): Answer regarding the nature of raw data.
Dr Clark,So it's NCBIv36 at least. I'm hoping they'll be willing to provide raw data in whatever basic format for those of us with interest later. Guess we'll find out!
The raw data for v3 is formatted exactly the same as for v2, and is also against build 36 of the human reference assembly. That information is in the header of the raw data file; not sure if it is documented elsewhere except where people have made their raw data files public.