The battle between tech giants Microsoft and Google over who is to provide student e-mail services at colleges rages on. This week, Microsoft hoped to win over more colleges by ending a fee it had charged for some services in its cloud-based e-mail and productivity suite, Office 365, matching terms long offered by Google.
Office 365 was originally a free e-mail service called Live@Edu. In late 2011, Microsoft renamed the service and expanded it to include features such as an online calendar, word processor, and instant messaging. Colleges could still use the e-mail component of Office 365 for free, but were charged $120 per user per year for the other tools. Last year, Microsoft paid the University of Nebraska $250,000 to switch to Office 365.
The entire Office 365 suite is now free for all accredited educational institutions, said Sig Behrens, the company’s general manager for U.S. education.
Dartmouth College and Cornell University have already moved their faculty, staff, and students to the new platform. Other universities in the process of making the transition to the service include the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Gonzaga University, Tulane University, and the University of New Mexico. Microsoft hopes to have 250 million students, faculty, and staff using the service by 2020, Mr. Behrens said.
“The benefits of this, working in the shared collaboration, are pretty important,” said Mr. Behrens. “Being able to have instant messaging, document collaboration—that’s very powerful, a capability that’s never happened before that will spur greater productivity.”
Microsoft has fewer takers for its campus services than Google. According to the latest Campus Computing Survey, more than half of colleges using outside e-mail providers use Google, while 40 percent use Microsoft. A Google spokesperson, Andrea Freund, added that 66 of the top 100 universities, as ranked by the U.S. News & World Report, use Google’s service.