Universities are increasingly moving away from in-house email and communications systems, and moving towards externally hosted systems. While that may have sounded like utter garbage and geek speak, it means universities can't afford or cope with their own email systems, so they're letting Microsoft and Google do it for them for free.
For free? Yep. Absolutely free. What to Google and Microsoft get out of it? Very little; if anything it actually causes them to lose money, but it really pisses the other one off by getting an upper hand over the other one.
I've been hounding my contacts at Waggener Edstrom for weeks now in an attempt to gain access to the software, to experience first hand how it works and what students are to benefit from it. My contacts prevailed and yielded a test account.
Google have yet to get back to me with information or details... or a reply for that matter.
You can also see my previous screenshot gallery which was demonstrated by a Microsoft employee, which has a more biased approach in my opinion.
It's important to note, for reasons of bias, Google's rival service, Google Apps Edu, which provides much of the same features including email, calendar, and an online office suite for holding, sharing and storing documents. Personally, I wouldn't mind which one I end up using following the consideration that my own institution, the University of Kent, will be outsourcing 19,000 students' email to either Microsoft or Google.
However, after speaking to the university staff and college IT departments around the world over the last week, because the two services are almost identical in what they offer, the final decision has been the administrative side behind-the-scenes, that of which the students don't see. The installation, configuration and technological bureaucracy seems less with Google than that of Microsoft's email service, with Google's service being "less of a headache short-term", to quote one administrator.
However, recent press announcements from Microsoft say universities worldwide are more likely to select Live@edu instead. Some of these universities include Washington State University, University of Sydney, Australia and Alexandria University, Egypt, with some anticipating saving more than $100,000 for their students across their campuses.
But screw what Microsoft and Google say - their opinions and press releases aren't important. They're not the ones using it at the end of the day.