Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

Summary: Microsoft announced major milestones for Live@Edu today, as well as finally revealing details for Office 365 for Education.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Apps, Google
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There. I said it. This dyed-in-the-wool Google Apps fan and Google Docs power user just admitted that the new Office 365 for Education was leapfrogging Google Apps for Education even as I write this post. Remember when Microsoft launched its "We're all in" cloud computing campaign and most of us thought it was nonsense? I mean, how could a company that makes so much money on desktop computing come up with a slogan like that? As it turns out, Office 365 for Education, detailed today at the Microsoft Education Conference in London, makes the cloud a powerful platform for education and collaboration in a genuinely unified way that its competitors (cough, ahem, Google, cough, cough) just haven't managed to achieve.

Currently, Microsoft offers a subset of Exchange Online and Office Web Apps called Live@Edu for academic institutions. It's a perfectly nice platform for storing and sharing information online and offers rich email and IM capabilities. It goes beyond "perfectly nice" when you have Microsoft infrastructure to leverage and strengths ranging from massive storage in the cloud to Active Directory integration to high-fidelity rendering of Word documents make Live@Edu a worthy competitor to Google Apps for Education.

Live@Edu, however, has always felt a bit like a token effort by what has become a stodgy old company to get into the student computing space with something that represents their "all in" claims. Obviously a lot of people disagree with me, since Microsoft is also announcing a major milestone in London today: 15 million active student users of Live@Edu. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, whether you think of them as future Microsoft customers or just as students who have access to powerful tools for free.

Google, on the other hand, provides a set of tools that, if not brilliantly integrated, were created for the cloud and run very well in a browser. For Google, it has always been a case of the web-as-a-platform. Creating documents that looked just like their Word equivalents was far less important than simply creating content (preferably together).

Now, however, with the introduction of Office 365 for Education, Microsoft is changing the game. Think what you will of Microsoft, Sharepoint 2010 is a very powerful, intuitive, highly customizable platform for workgroup and enterprise collaboration. The cloud-based Sharepoint Online does just as good a job of empowering workers and administrators to create social spaces in which authentic collaborative work or learning can take place.

And here is where the leapfrog begins. When I attended the launch of Sharepoint 2010 last year, I was really impressed by the ease with which users could interact and work together. Google Apps, of course, allows such things as real-time editing with multiple users in the same document, but Sharepoint goes far enough that I called it a potential  Facebook alternative. Add to that, threaded discussions, VOIP, and instant messages through Microsoft's Lync cloud application, make it free for students, and then add Microsoft Office for dirt cheap prices and you end up with quite a compelling package.

That's right, I said Microsoft Office. There are several so-called "offers" that will be available from Microsoft when Office 365 officially launches; these are essentially package deals with steep discounts on the services not included for free. Some of these offers actually include a copy of Office 2010 Professional  so that both the rich desktop clients and the cloud-based server applications can be used to meet student needs.

The offers specifically are:

a1 (academic 1) - entry level, exchange, link, sharepoint for faculty - $6 per staff/month (free for students)

a2 -All features in a1 plus Office Web Apps - $10 per staff/month (free for students)

a3 - All features in a2 plus Office 2010 Professional Plus (available as a managed subscription service for  $14/user/month ($2/user/month for students) and manageability features)

a4 - All features in a3 plus on-premise voice capability (Microsoft reps suggested removing an old PBX system in a dorm and moving to VOIP or for creating an international workgroup that requires face-to-face meetings) (17/user/mo for faculty or staff and $5/month for students).

The leapfrog ends with extremely tight integration across all of the cloud-based applications in Office 365. Everything works together quite seamlessly and integrates fully with Active Directory. Google Apps often shows the disparate roots of multiple startup companies whose products became Google Spreadsheets and Google Docs. Office 365 for Education, on the other hand, provides a visually consistent interface that is designed to launch applications and surface backend data whenever necessary.

This leaves us with 2 questions:

  • Is going with Google Apps for Education a mistake in the face of all of this free, well-built collaborative technology?
  • Is it worth hopping on the Live@Edu bandwagon now when Office 365 for Education will be available "sometime in 2011"?

For the first question, the answer is absolutely not! Google Apps is easy, straigtforward, and will, no doubt, make huge strides to catch up with Office 365. If I had to choose between the two right now, I'd pick Office 365.
For the second question, this is a bit like deciding between the iPad now and waiting for the iPad 2 a few months from now. While Microsoft wouldn't confirm, I expect that schools moving to Live@Edu will have an easy path to becoming Office 365 schools.
Bottom line, Microsoft's Office 365 for Education platform really is the next generation of learning productivity tools. Check back for followups as more details crystallize around its formal launch and I highlight cool use cases teachers dream up for these tools. It's going to be an interesting year!

Topics: Microsoft, Apps, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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30 comments
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  • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

    but isn't google apps for edu free ?
    kdsandeep
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @kdsandeep@...

      So is Live@Edu/Office 365. There are premium services from both Microsoft and Google that even Education can pay for if they wish, but much of it is already free.
      bobiroc
      • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

        @bobiroc,
        just checked the article, a1, a2, a3, a4 all seem to have costs associated with them. Maybe article is wrong.
        kdsandeep
      • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

        @kdsandeep@...

        The costs are for staff member usage but it is free for students. That is the point I was trying to make. Free unless you want to move up to Office ProPlus which I am not sure if that is necessarily needed for students but it may be depending on the organization's needs.

        I guess the costs have to be evaluated depending on the organization. For example we have Locally Installed Office on our district's workstations which we pay per workstation and not per user and local exchange for email for staff. We currently use Live@Edu just for Students and they get the Office STD Web apps in the cloud that they can use at home or when off our school computers and the staff can use Office at school and have take home user rights for office as well. I also know many that have taken their work email address and made it into a LiveID so they can get access to Windows live features like the skydrive and I believe the Office Web Apps STD for free too.

        Also I am not sure how other school districts work but our Colleges pretty much dictate that we use actual Microsoft Office for our curriculum teaching because that is what the colleges use. In fact we are told that our business education classes have to be on Office 2010 by next fall and we are currently on Office 2007. So I am not sure how that works for everybody. Since we are not on an agreement with Microsoft for Office and paid for the licenses outright I am going to have to re-evaluate all of this to see what the best option is for our district. There has been talks of just getting an enterprise CAL for the district because we use Microsoft products heavily such as Windows, Office, Exchange, SharePoint, ForeFront, etc.. and it is getting to the point where an enterprise CAL may make sense for us. Now some may consider that "Lock In" but in my experience the products we use from Microsoft work and work well for our needs educating students as well as getting the work we need to get done and in the grand scheme of things the associated costs are nominal.
        bobiroc
      • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

        @bobiroc Nah, I work for a private school and while the cost for staff is not (in $US) exorbitant, there is a cost and that doesn't work in it's favour. If a school is going to switch, at the very least, academic staff will need an account, plus any admin which deals with students. Plus, I like the walled garden approach to email with Ggle Apps and the granularity in managing individual apps for individual groups in the apps. Still, what was once an apparent token effort is now getting quite attractive.
        richardschwarz
      • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

        @bobiroc
        Let me put it this way. I just got my online <a href="http://www.online-lcu.com/bsol/online-organizational-leadership-bachelors-degree.asp">organizational leadership degree</a>. There is a big demand for online education already so this platform from Microsoft comes exactly at the right time. At some point in the future, online education will be a major part of the educational system.
        jamesTT
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @kdsandeep@... "but isn't google apps for edu free ? "

      No, nothing from Google is "free". The price they charge is worth more than money. It is your privacy. Their database would make the NSA look like pikers.
      jorjitop
      • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

        @jorjitop While you may have a valid point about Google's consumer applications, the Education version mentioned in this article have very specific language in the contract that requires Google to comply with FERPA and give administrators the ability to turn off ads and web clips (in gmail)
        jsiegl
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @kdsandeep@... Yup, Office365 is free too. However if schools need additional powerful features then they have to pay starting at $6/faculty/staff/month. The free services are way ahead of anything anyone else offers and Google Apps is really consumer grade and not really meant for business nor is it business-level and also needs to be paid for if schools want additional features that Google relies on third parties to implement.
      techiegz
  • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

    6 dollar per month comes to 72 dollars per year,
    10 dollar per month comes to 120 dollars per year. Whereas even the highest version of google apps for business is just 50 dollars per year.
    kdsandeep
  • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

    What about lock-in?
    solri
  • Already on Live@Edu

    and the teachers, students, and I love it. Tried Google Apps initially about a year before we started using Live@Edu and found Live@Edu to be more intuitive to our needs and it seems that Microsoft is constantly improving the product. According to my Microsoft Rep there will still be a free version of Office365 for Education with optional premium services like you mentioned above.

    In all honestly I hope Google improves their product and Microsoft stays on the path they are with always striving to improve theirs. It is good competition.
    bobiroc
  • Students, students, students... but what about non-students?

    I know this is "ZDNet Education" but even students theoretically move-on and become non-students.

    So what about non-students? Google Office is pretty much free for anybody, but the only free I see is when u r a student.
    sunworks
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @sunworks Google Apps for business costs money like Office 365 does. The free Google Apps compete with Office Web Apps on Skydrive, which is also free.
      e_notimpl
  • how did it leapfrog?

    does it offer better collaboration that google apps? pretty much every single thing you mentioned is present in google apps, minus the software. who wants software? m$ is all in on the cloud yet they are bundling software? god people are dumb. all you need is a slogan and people (including tech bloggers) fall for anything.
    Jim Mcnelis
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @Jim Mcnelis<br><br>Don't be so quick to call people dumb when you obviously missed the point. By no means is Office 2010 a requirement to use Office 365 as Office 365 is based on Office Web Apps 2010. Microsoft is just offering rediculously high discounts on Office 2010 for people that may like to work offline, you know because people don't always have an Internet connection, something Google has forgotten.
      jmiller1978
  • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

    My experience with both (actively using Google Apps for two years and working with Windows Live) in an education environment (teacher at a High School) has me in complete disagreement with bobiroc. Windows Live is incredibly slow when sharing and working on documents. Only one person at a time can edit, while others watch and have to wait their turns. The training of students and instructors is much harder and there is no "sites" equivalent in the MS offering - something we have to have. I have listened to the pitch from MS and Google reps to our district committee on this, and at least in our set-up going with an MS solution would cost us much more in that we would have to keep infrastructure and people at the district level we wouldn't have to keep otherwise. MS has offered to "discount" their stand-alone office suite to reduce, somewhat, our current costs, but it is still a significantly more expensive option for us. I've got to hope that 365 in its new form speeds up and changes its file sharing options. I'm sure it is fast enough if you keep the district-level servers and personnel fired-up, but with budgets as tight as they are now, it's crazy not to go with Google Apps for Education.
    rjlaws
    • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

      @rjlaws

      OneNote does real-time collaboration.

      As for Sites, that is what the Sharepoint part does.
      incendy
    • To each is own.

      @rjlaws

      Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to insult GoogleApps by any means as I am sure it is a great solution to many people. That is why there are choices. I will admit that the collaborating via live@edu in my organization is quite minimal and most of that is done through the means of Moodle which has the Live@Edu Plug-in/Connector installed so they can utilize the power of both of these free solutions. We did not fully roll out Live@Edu for our students until this year as last year was very light but so far the feedback has been nothing but positive and the only complaints I have gotten is due to our Web Content Filter blocking certain things that I no longer have any control over due to a issues with the Network Manager in my organization.

      Also like incendy said The Sharepoint part will provide the portal for the student like a "site" equivalent like you mentioned above and in most cases the live collaboration is done through OneNote and then the documents may be reviewed by another student or teacher but in my case a lot of that is done through the moodle interface. I don't deal with the moodle part so I do not have those details. All I know is that the teachers and students love the communication and ability to connect to their teachers virtually everywhere.
      bobiroc
  • RE: Live@Edu grows, evolves into Office 365 for Education, leapfrogs Google Apps for Education

    Good for you Chris for admitting it. Today you become a man! :)
    Loverock Davidson