Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

Summary: Microsoft's Live@edu service for students is absolutely killing Google's Apps for Education. I may have an idea or two as to why. Article


Microsoft and Google are still plotting away at each other in attempts to get colleges and universities on side with their own email, document and general productivity suites.

Google hasn't got back to me with any of the questions I sent over in regards to this vague tweet:

Since then there has been an awful lot of email to'ing and fro'ing between myself and a number of public relations folk. My last post comparing the two suites was a few months ago; it's time for a revision and seeing where universities rank the in-house email killers, by deconstructing the jargon and seemingly meaningless spin.

Google Apps is used by only 7 million students

This surprised me, actually. The aforementioned tweet suggests that around 40% of US students were using Google Apps for Education, when in fact no, only 7 million users worldwide are using the suite. While enterprise and business customers may well be using Google Apps for their own, educational institutions are simply not picking it up as much as Live@edu.

There only seem to be a few dozen establishments using the service, according to their mashup. Google have yet to release further detailed statistics, but considering there are over 300 educational institutions in the UK alone, this doesn't seem to bode well for Google's statistics.

Live@edu is used by more than 10,000 "schools"

Microsoft finally updated its press release to confirm that over 10,000 "schools" - which as Americans often describe school as "a form of education" not mutually exclusive to compulsory education but university/college also. Considering most universities have over 10,000 students, I would fairly say that there are definitely over 7 million users using Live@edu; it's probably closer to 50 million if not even more.

However, deeply embedded in a statement about how the public sector identifies federation services (yawn), it states near the very bottom:

"Florida State College at Jacksonville and the University of South Carolina are recent wins and join the thousands of other institutions in more than 100 countries already providing Live@edu to tens of millions of students worldwide."

Well that settles that then. They're ahead of Google with "tens of millions of students" using the product.

Why is Live@edu so far ahead?

I believe it's down to three main reasons.

  1. It's built on Exchange Server 2010 and was rolled out to students way before it was released, using students as unbeknown testers. Universities already use Exchange most of the time for at least their staff to communicate and collaborate, so by branding alone, "Exchange" sounds good to them.
  2. Active Directory integration is far easier. Google Apps requires the use of the API to synchronise LDAP or Active Directory (the most common) accounts so users can have their university email address or username and password to sign on to the service, without the need for another set of credentials. Live@edu does make it easier, but that is again due to the fact that more often than not, they're using existing Microsoft technology.
  3. Most universities are already "Microsoft campuses" in the fact that they already have licensing and "long standing agreements" in place to keep their services, email, products and systems running and ticking over. All it takes is one small plug from a representative who the university already trusts, and bang - you end up using more Microsoft technology.

For now, although there is no definitive proof as actual product statistics are scarce and both Microsoft and Google are holding back actual figures - no doubt to try and psyche out the opponent - it seems Microsoft's Live@edu software is racing far ahead of Google Apps for Education.

Any guesses why?

Topics: Collaboration, Apps, Cloud, Google, Microsoft

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  • BS and wet dreams

    Ballmer has lost his senses.
    I've never heard of anyone using live!
    Linux Geek
    • don't confuse Live with...

      Not Live. Live@Edu. Different things.
  • We have both

    Our school's internal and student mail are GMail powered, while our front and backends are Microsoft.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Speaking of schools...

      Yeah, my school recently transitioned from the Novell NetWare system to Gmail, but other services are provided by MS.
  • So in brief we have no numbers but needed to make up a story?

    So - there are actually no numbers here to compare...?

    Zack, you ought to have covered enough statistics in your classes to know better. You have no idea what the numbers mean, and attempts to compare them, or worse yet, draw conclusions from such comparisons, belie a pretty profound lack of understanding of how this industry works.

    One point to consider here is that Google traditionally counts active accounts only, whereas Microsoft has never been shy about counting every desktop you could possibly install some variant of Windows on (just ask any school!)

    There is no point drawing comparisons unless you can have clarity whether you're comparing apples to apples. For now you're just adding noise.

    • RE: Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

      @Yahnz Firstly, I'm a criminologist, not a statistician, so please don't tell me I should know better based on no first-hand knowledge of the degree I do. And secondly, had you read some of the earlier posts that I had written (linked in the post), you'd realise the state of Google's affairs in line with plenty of statistics for your number-lusting pleasure.
  • MS is Junk

    So is Exchange, Active Directory, and Office.

    It's shocking that Universities which should be producing students that make the next generation of things would be so intrenched in Microsoft.

    MS is a dead end technology.
    • Good post.

      Fully backed up statements of wisdom beyond the ages.

      Your mamma must be extra proud of you.
  • Dodgy conclusion based on poor research

    You claim that there only seem to be a few dozen establishments using Google Apps based on a mashup map with the header "See a small sample of schools" and "Add your own"? That claim is wrong.

    You conclude that since MS PR says 10,000 that it must be true? They're likely including anyone who's ever touched it, even just for evaluation. Coming from PR, it's doubtful or at least skewed.

    Then you go on to say, "Considering most universities have over 10,000 students". MOST do NOT have over 10K students. Public colleges in the US have about 10-12K, but Census data shows that private colleges have more like 3-4,000 each and NCES data shows that in the US private colleges outnumber public colleges two to one. So that claim is wrong.

    And based on those flawed assumptions you jump off the high board with what paraphrases to "We don't really know, but golly gee Microsoft is sure wayyy ahead."

    The only remotely provable conclusion here is that you can say anything you want to in an opinion piece.
  • RE: Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

    Not live, man. Live@Edu. Not same thing.
  • RE: Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

    I don't think that having Live@edu built into Exchange Server 2010 is a big deal. My school still uses Exchange 2003, and I guess most schools are slow to upgrade to such a new version of Exchange, if not for cost reasons, than simply for reliability reasons (ie. waiting to make sure all the bugs are worked out first).

    We use Google Apps. I would also say that Google has an advantage because most students are aware of Gmail. I doubt many students know what Live@edu is. I hadn't even heard of Live@edu until now.
  • Students Choosing their email

    Hey so I attend a university in Canada called McMaster University. Our current email system has a max inbox of 15mb. Pretty awesome right? So we are moving forward with getting a new system but allowing our students to decide. The reason being that, any move forward will be great, but the point of this is for students to use it, and embrace it, and if they don't like a product or find it too complicated and not conducive to their education then why not give them the opportunity to decide.

    Any thoughts on this method?
  • RE: Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

    So, let me get this straight. Live@edu is a Micro$oft server program that supports email? Is it free? Does it support shared document authoring? Is it platform neutral? Does it support student website creation and hosting? Does it have any other apps helpful to education and communication? What are the comparison points?
  • RE: Google vs. Microsoft: Number wars, students as weapons

    Our University just did an extensive evaluation of Google Apps vs. Live@edu. This included several conversations with Gartner to obtain objective comparisons and usage statistics. According to Gartner's research, US universities/colleges are split almost exactly 50/50 between the two offerings.

    Our own surveys of the student population also revealed, somewhat surprisingly, that use of email providers was pretty evenly split among Yahoo, MS Live, and Gmail. Everyone thought Gmail would win by a mile, but statistics proved Gmail is not as ubiquitous as people may think, even among the young student population.

    In the end, our University went with Live@edu because of larger quotas, native support for Outlook, and better support for smartphones/tablets. As a disclaimer, we have never been an Exchange shop, so there was no compelling MS loyalty to push us toward Live@edu. In fact, a transition to Google would have probably been easier.