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Microsoft Introduces Office 365 for Higher Ed

Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written several posts over the years about cloud computing and collaboration. Most of our focus has been on GoogleDocs and collaborative authorship (see my “GoogleDocs and Collaboration in the Classroom,” for example).

Not to be outdone by the cloud services offered by Google and others, Microsoft has been working on offerings like Office Live (which I wrote about in 2010) and Office 365 (which the New York Times covered in 2011). These services are designed to let users access and edit cloud-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations from any device with a connection to the Internet and to collaborate on these files simultaneously with other users. And as Microsoft attempts to stay competitive with its mobile devices, introduces a new operating system (or two), and starts selling a new tablet device, cloud-based tools are going to be more and more important.

Last week, Microsoft announced Office 365 University, a cloud-based service to be made available to students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities. The company says that the service is scheduled to become “[a]vailable in the first quarter of 2013,” and will be free for higher ed users who have purchased Office University 2010 or Office University for Mac 2011. (However, later in that same announcement a price of $1.67 per month is specified, which is still pretty good, but not as good as free).

Since I work on a campus where the default computing tools are Microsoft-compatible, I’ll be interested in seeing how this service rolls out. While my students have made good use of GoogleDocs, there’s still some (though not much) awkwardness in moving from Microsoft Office on the desktop for most of their writing and editing needs and then converting to the GoogleDocs format for sharing and collaborating. If Office 365 can make this kind of work as seamless as possible, then I will certainly be interested in giving it a try in the courses I teach.

How about you? Have you taken advantage of Microsoft’s cloud-based services? Will you be giving Office 365 a try? Or are you committed to other, competing services? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Microsoft Sweden]

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