Why 'Office 365', and what do students get out of it?

Summary:In short, very little will change for Live@edu users moving over to re-branded Office 365 for Education, bar a few logos here and optional for-fee products at the discretion of the school.

Microsoft's Office 365 will evolve the existing cloud services provided to small and medium sized organisations, including universities and education institutions into an adaptive, efficient infrastructure.

Live@edu is not going anywhere though; it will be rolled into the rest of Microsoft Online Services as Office 365 for Education.

Though very little information was released last week with the Office 365 announcement, a Microsoft source told me earlier today:

"Very little will change for the end-user. Maybe a logo here, a logo there."

With this in mind, it is unlike that very little will be different for the student using the Outlook Web App email client, the main feature of Live@edu's service. The chances are, demonstrated in this rather simple mock-up, as the Office Web Apps are essentially a plug-in to enhance the cloud services, that the front end email client will remain vastly the same:

Ray Ozzie's departing note about the post-PC world noted the importance of the cloud-centric industry, where users were not tied down to simply the desktop operating system.

The reason for the name 'Office 365' is relatively simple; it is to bring forward the notion that you can be productive at any given time of day or year. As a 24/7/365 product which runs as a constant cloud service, it negates the need for a gratuitously pointless acronym like 'BPOS'.

But as Live@edu merged with the rest of the Microsoft Online Services offering, Microsoft wanted to get a widely use brand name out there further.

As mentioned before, products are pitched at younger consumers and the Generation Y in the hope they will then bring them into industry once they leave school. By exposing the younger generation to features and services they are content with, it increases the likelihood that the respective industries they enter into will then pay for them.

Live@edu's main feature, the email inbox, offers very little in terms of branding. Heading it as part of an 'Office' initiative will bring more focus to this.

As Live@edu (is current and present tense, whereas 'Office 365 for Education' is future tense as it moves into production next year) is a free service, just as Google's Apps for Education are, the two companies make very little money from them. It makes sense to get in there early and provide services for potential future customers.

It is not expected for Office Professional Plus as a pay-as-you-go and licensed per-user to be given as standard to Office 365 for Education users. The main focus for using Office Professional Plus as a gain for other Office 365 users is that it also includes Office Web Apps; allowing users to work from anywhere instead of where the licensed desktop copy is installed.

Current Live@edu users already have Office Web Apps access via SkyDrive automatically linked into their email account, as their university network credentials form a Windows Live ID.

However, with for-fee additional features able to be added to the standard offerings of Live@edu, such as SharePoint Online and Office Communicator Online, adding per-user copies of Office Professional Plus could be an offering for institutions who can justify the additional cost.

One possible reason why Office Home and Student 2010 didn't include Office Web Apps is to add more incentive to universities to sign up for Live@edu, which did offer the web applications by standard.

Are you happy with the 'Office 365' name? Are you more pleased that very little will change for current users now, making it a seamless transition from old to new? The opinion factory is hiring.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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