New Live@Edu offerings keep pressure on Google Apps for Education
Microsoft made a number of major announcements today, all designed to up the ante in its battle for business and educational customers with Google's Apps products. The most important for us? Microsoft announced serious expansions of its Live@Edu services, most of which are based on the now-cheaper Exchange and Sharepoint Online offerings.
Microsoft made a number of major announcements today, all designed to up the ante in its battle for business and educational customers with Google's Apps products. The first came when the company revealed major price drops this morning in its Exchange Online and its Business Productivity Online Services which collectively represent Microsoft's hosted offerings of calendaring, mail, portal, and collaboration tools. Then, this evening at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, Microsoft announced serious expansions of its Live@Edu services, most of which are based on the now-cheaper Exchange and Sharepoint Online offerings.
According to the company's education blog,
We are also announcing new SharePoint Online-based collaboration and productivity services will be available for students as part of the Live@edu next year. These new SharePoint-based services will offer IT departments more flexibility and control to set up and manage their school’s collaboration and productivity tools in a security-enhanced environment…as well as the ability to access and manage permissions to sites, documents and content (pictures, videos) with enterprise-class control.
These services are expected to be available in time for Summer/Fall 2010 rollouts. Although Microsoft representatives noted that the free Live@Edu services would not have "feature parity" with SharePoint Online, they would allow for in-place editing of documents in Office Web Apps (editing capabilities are currently very limited), as well as
enable them to create, edit and securely access content from their school’s site anywhere, whether at home, at the school library or even while on the road for holiday. It will allow them to organize, track and easily share classroom information, interests, expertise and easily find colleagues...
The slide below summarizes the relationships between Microsoft's free Live@Edu services and their cloud-based and on-premise software.
In addition to improving the student portal and collaboration interfaces, the enhancements will include new management interfaces based on SharePoint 2010 technologies (as are most of the Live@Edu features). The following slide is Microsoft's vision of how IT and users manage the Live@Edu experience:
So what does all of this mean? It means that by next Fall, the features Google is looking to incorporate in Apps over the coming year had better be live. It also means that schools with Microsoft infrastructures should be thinking what cheaper cloud offerings out of Redmond can do to reduce costs and save energy, while still leveraging new and improved Live@Edu features for their portal and collaboration needs. Finally, it means that schools will need to decide if Google Apps, for the low, low price of free meets their needs (which starts looking more likely as Google builds on its messaging success and improves on Docs) or if the extra power, control, and flexibility of a full Microsoft cascade is worth the investment.
That last piece is going to be key. How do you compete with free in the education space as the lasting effects of the recession continue to trickle down to educational institutions? Microsoft has a compelling stack of back-end and presentation software, made better by reduced prices and improved features in its free offerings. Compelling enough to beat Google Apps? We'll see, since Microsoft's announcements today coincide nicely with the start of budgeting season.