Microsoft squares up to Google in the schoolyard with free Office 365 for students deal

Microsoft squares up to Google in the schoolyard with free Office 365 for students deal

Summary: Microsoft launches a beefed up Office 365 product for students that offers free locally installed desktop software.


Microsoft has officially launched Student Advantage package, which gives students the multi-device Office 365 ProPlus suite for free — if a school's teachers and faculty are paying customers.

Announced in October, the Office 365 Student Advantage package was made available to 35,000 educational institutions around the world earlier this week.

It sees Microsoft arming itself with a free full-featured Office product to help combat Google's free Google Apps for Education plus Chromebook assault on the education sector, and follows a Microsoft advertising campaign talking up the offline capabilities of its own platform on devices priced similarly to Google's own-brand laptops.

It's not in Microsoft's blood to give stuff away, so to qualify for the new Student Advantage deal, the school or university needs to have purchased for staff an "institution-wide" subscription to Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus, available through Microsoft's traditional volume licensing arrangements.

Office 365 ProPlus normally costs $12 a month per user and offers Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, and Lync on five devices per user.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has made Office available for free: students could also get the suite under its Office 365 Education 'A2' plan, which excluded desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and other software. To get Office with the desktop versions included, however, students had to sign up to the A3 plan, costing $3.20 per student per month, or the A4 package, which offers more features such as Lync calling from the desktop, costs $3.80 per student per month. Teacher and faculty rates were $5.80 and $7.70 per user per month respectively.

Microsoft is recommending schools put students on the Office 365 Education A2 package in addition to ProPlus to get all available capabilities. The A2 deal includes Office Web Apps, 50GB email storage, web conferencing, 25GB SkyDrive Pro storage, SharePoint Intranet, Active Directory integration, anti-spam and anti-malware.

Microsoft recently boosted the cloud email storage capacity for its A2, A3 and A4 plans, outsizing Google's free Education Apps limit of 30GB across Gmail and Drive. Google's core suite of apps include an ad-free Gmail, calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites.

As Google pushes the argument that its Windows- and Office-free Chromebooks offer a lower total cost of ownership to schools, Microsoft has for its part talked up the value of Office to students as they enter the workforce, quoting an IDC study that claimed Office skills were the most sought-after productivity tools capabilities for employers.

Topics: Microsoft, Google, Windows, Google Apps

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Not a kindness on the part of MS

    This is just another part of the MS push to force software rental (SaaS) upon us. They figure that getting students used to using online software will make them accept having to pay for software monthly forever. If that's what they saw in school, they will think it the norm.

    A student today could buy an Office package, pay once, and use it forever so long as he has the hardware to run it. I'm still using MS Word 2003 because it works and meets all my needs. But MS does not want to see that happening in the future. They want monthly payments forever.

    • Google, in contrast all about charity and giving you stuff with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
  • Microsoft squares up to Google in the school yard with free Office 365 for

    I hope the students are bugging the teachers and faculty to join Microsoft Office 365. Compatible documents everywhere. Students can do their homework from anywhere.
    • Do you have kids in college?

      In the 3 colleges/universities that my kids take classes at, they ALL use Google Docs. The collaboration feature is the key reason - MS only recently added that. Though hangouts are turning into a real value-add as well - my kids regularly do group hangouts.

      And they all can do their homework from anywhere, now.
      • hangouts are great

        I really like Hangouts, but I also find MS Lync to be phenomenal. MS has done a great job getting parity in all the cloud and collaboration features Google provided.
    • office365

      If the school install Thinserver from Aikotech, they already can hv their own office 365 !
    • There not

      Schools system are switching over great numbers now to Google Apps. That's reality.
  • Incorrect quotas in article

    You have incorrect information, Google Apps has a quota of 30GB shared between Gmail and Google Drive... they are not separate quotas of 30GB each like you mention.
    Sebastian Hiernaux
  • And why should the school pay for a Microsoft Product and licences.........

    Just so the Students get a FREE version of 365.

    Google for Schools is a far superior and better product.

    The Schools manage their own site and what the students have to do.

    Love it great concept.

    Too late Microsoft.
    • It's not a far and superior better product

      But, it is useable and cheap to implement. With greater numbers integrating into these products it can only get better.

      The trend is now that K-12 schools system will be moving in this direction for the price value. It appears that google will own this market within the nexts 5 to 10 years.
  • Hope this comes to Oz, preferably without the school needing to be involved

    Anything that needs an education department to get involved will probably fail – they simply take too long to make decisions.

    Why do I want here in Australia? My children are in grades 2 & 4 and they do power point presentations for class. Free/online power point doesn’t cut it, finding my laptop with Office means I can’t use my PC, so bring on the discounted Office & Surface products for education!
  • I've been able to get

    The 2 licenses of the most recent version of office professional for $9 since I've been in college, so this deal doesn't do much for me. Especially since this offer is the subscription based version.
    Sam Wagner
    • Mine Cheap Too

      Since my wife and I both work for companies that use Office, I bought 2 Office 2013 licenses for $10 each. Happy to pay it. (For $100 or $200 each, I likely would have gone Google Apps.)
  • Chromebooks and Google Apps

    It is happening right now ... School system are jumping to chromebooks and google apps for one reason. It's cheap, cheap, cheap. Forget everything else and your logical reason why they shouldn't. They are and they will continue. This is the way of the future. Microsoft and Apple are pricing themselves right out of the Education sector in K-12 schools.