Last year when Microsoft announced that it was rebranding BPOS as Office365, it also said that it would be doing away with Live@edu and moving its offerings for education to Office365 as well. Recently, it was announced that when released later this year Microsoft will provide educational institutions with hosted Office services as well as a licensed version of Office software.
The Office365 for Education packages will start with a package that gives students and faculty members entry Exchange, Lync and SharePoint -- US$ 6 per staff/month, free for students -- to a package that includes everything plus VoIP -- US$ 17 per staff/month and US$ 5 for students.
In effect, Office365 for Education will replicate Office365 in the enterprise, enabling students to collaborate on projects using the MySites function in SharePoint Online, call remote team meetings, video chat and see who is online and available at any given time.
For schools that don’t have the firepower to offer SharePoint, Exchange and Lync Online together, Microsoft also said that it will be offering schools Office Desktop software for US$ 2 per student per month.
Microsoft and Education
The announcement of Office365 for Education at this week’s BETT educational technology conference in London, UK, gives some insight into where Microsoft is going with this.
Interestingly, it also provided user figures for Live@edu. According to Microsoft, the number of students using it has grown from 11 million worldwide to 15 million students in just three months.
With that many students users and a large probability that any institution using Live@edu will move to Office365, Microsoft is ensuring a future market for all those products that will be included in the platform when it is finally released.
While Microsoft says that this all about “unleash[ing] student creativity and help[ing] students and educators connect and collaborate", between the lines it says that if you get students collaborating across your platform, chances are when they enter the enterprise they are going to want work with what they know.
When Office 365 launches, existing Live@edu customers will have a smooth path to the new platform, Anna Kinney, director of Live@edu said, with the possibility of transitioning at their own pace as they introduce new capabilities.
Jon Perera, General Manager of Education Strategy, discusses Office365 for Education
Google Apps for Education
And then there’s the Google Apps element to the release, or rather the Google Apps for Education. Google Apps for Education offers a free (and ad-free) set of customizable tools that enable faculty, staff and students to collaborate through Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Docs and many of the other Google Apps that are currently available.
According to Google, over 10 million students are currently using it. While that is still shy of Microsoft’s 15 million, it does represent a considerable audience and one that in the future could start challenging Microsoft in this space.
By offering SharePoint 2010 Online, Microsoft really has upped the ante in terms of easy collaboration, and goes well beyond the functions that Google have been adding to Apps like real-time editing on documents by several users at the same time. Office365 is also a complete platform on which all the components are designed to work seamlessly together.
The question now is what will Google do about it? Probably continue the way it has been going with Apps by adding elements slowly but surely until it has made up the ground that Microsoft appears to be gaining with Office365 for Education.
Watch and wait. There is still more to be played out here and it is likely that we will be hearing more from both Microsoft and Google before Office365 is finally launched.