Microsoft has been hired by India's body for education development as its largest cloud customer to date, as part of efforts to modernise the country's schools and reduce IT costs.
Microsoft's Live@edu service will be rolled out to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India. It will be available to more than 7 million students, and half a million faculty members.
All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Microsoft made the announcement today ahead of the launch, which will take three months to deploy. A full deployment is expected by summer 2012.
Live@edu is a free service for colleges and universities, allowing tens of millions of students worldwide to access Outlook-powered email, storage space, and document collaboration tools, including Office Web Apps and SkyDrive.
The service comes ahead of a deployment of Microsoft's Office 365 for education, which comes later this year. Microsoft currently has more than 22 million people using the student-focused service.
AICTE sought the services also of IBM and Google, which has a competing Google Apps for Education service, but settled on Microsoft as the choice for the largest cloud deployment ever made. Some colleges and universities had avoided Google's services citing reasons of lacking security, "unacceptable privacy levels", and reduced control over user data.
India's rapid economic activity and growth means the country needs to stay ahead of its game. Globally, Indian students will go on to define the next-generation technology industry, as the country continues to be a powerhouse for innovation and advancements.
Outsourcing of communications has been paramount to colleges and universities, particularly in the wake of the 2008--2010 global economic recession, which saw academic budgets cut in some cases by as much as half, and a rise in tuition fees to offset the balance in the UK and the United States.