Thailand seems an unlikely place for competition in the productivity suite market to erupt. However, the announcement last night by Microsoft that it has signed a deal with the Thai government to provide 8 million students with Office 365 should stir things up in Asia.
According to the statement from the government, Microsoft has agreed to provide Microsoft Office 365 Education for the next five years.
Office 365 Education
The announcement didn’t say what version of Office 365 for Education will be on offer, but that is almost irrelevant. The idea is to get students into the Office 365 fold from which few ever escape.
Microsoft offers a free version to students and faculty members which comes with SharePoint Online and Lync Online, and a limited version of Office through Office Online, the new version of Office Web Apps that was rebranded recently.
However, there are also two paid Education packages that have additional functionally including Office and enhanced storage.
According to a blog post by the Office 365 team, the agreement is part of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program, a global Microsoft program that promotes the use of technology.
This has already seen the Thai government offering Office 365 to 2 million students, who add their numbers to the 12 million educators, 200 million students in 119 countries worldwide.
Google and Education
The Thai announcement comes only three weeks after Google announced that it is developing a new tool to help teachers manage classroom tasks.
The new app will be called Classroom and will become part of Apps for Education, Google's cloud email and collaboration suite for students. Unlike Office 365, Classroom is only offered in one edition, which is free.
The interest in both announcements stems from the existing battle between Google and Microsoft, which are bringing their slugfest over productivity apps into the future, a kind of IT version of the movie Back to the Future, except with business software rather than McLaren cars.
The thinking is that if you get them young you will have them for ever, and if 8 million seats seems like a big investment for what is largely considered to be a developing country IT-wise, the future rewards could be enormous.