View Full Version : Microsoft Engages Google in Public School Fight

25th February 2011, 12:31 PM
Microsoft and Google both seem to understand the value of “getting them while they’re young.” Google has been working full-throttle to convert school districts from Microsoft email and collaboration products, as Digits reported Tuesday, but Microsoft has been fighting right back.

On Wednesday, the Redmond, Wash. software giant said that public schools in Portland, Oregon are moving its faculty and staff to Microsoft’s Live@edu cloud computing platform, and will soon be giving its high school students Microsoft Live accounts.

Microsoft Corp.
There is more at stake here than simply providing a public service — both vendors are hoping that making students familiar with their products at an early age will transform them into long-term consumers.

Steve Nelson, the chief IT strategist for the Oregon department of education, told Digits that his aim was to provide schools with “access to both [Microsoft and Google products] and use the strengths of

Nelson’s office has signed agreements that give individual school districts access to either, or both, platforms. According to Nelson, this strategy is intended to ensure that students “are prepared to join the modern workforce or higher education… When you allow choice for a district, you give them the opportunity to realize greater productivity and enhanced student learning.”

Microsoft’s U.S. chief technology officer, Cameron Evans, told Digits that Microsoft has similar procurement agreements as Google “with many states and school districts for both Microsoft cloud and on-premise offerings,” including New York and Oregon (as noted in Tuesday’s post).

Evans said that Microsoft’s Live@edu program offers schools email and productivity software at no charge, but said the company will introduce new services, such as archiving and voice communication, that “will have some subscription fees associated with them.”

The current online version of the SharePoint collaboration tool is free for students, but not for faculty.

Microsoft is also planning to change the name of Live@edu to Office 365, and add new services, such as on-premise productivity software, for which students and faculty will be charged.

According to Oregon’s Nelson, Google charges for archiving as well, but noted that “[Microsoft's] business proposition is much more difficult than Google’s was.”

He also noted that many districts have already invested significant amounts of money into licenses for Microsoft products, and the hardware to support that software. “I would be foolish to give up everything” by forcing them to switch to Google, he said.

Google still has a steep hill to climb before catching Microsoft; as Audrey Watters notes in a post on ReadWriteWeb, “Google touts 10 million Apps for Education users. Microsoft touts 15 million for its Live@edu.