Google, Microsoft Compete For College Email
Universities have been opting for email services managed by Microsoft or Google as a desirable alternative to running email as an in-house operation.
The choice looks relatively straightforward: spend money on maintaining and upgrading email systems for college students, or participate in a Google or Microsoft program that provides student email and other web-based applications for free.
For habitually cash-strapped colleges, selecting Windows Live @ Edu or Google Apps Education Edition makes sense. Andy Guess at Inside Higher Ed suggested such outsourcing will become the standard at most institutions over the next few years.
Both Google and Microsoft have been rapidly gaining converts, as Guess noted:
Jeff Keltner, Google’s enterprise specialist for collaboration products, said institutions at six of the seven continents use its education services, with several hundred thousand active users logging in at a regular basis from several thousand campuses around the world.
The senior product manager for Microsoft’s Live @ edu program, Bruce Gabrielle, said the company has some 450 higher education clients, which ballooned from 300 since the end of June. “A lot of awareness is spreading virally,” he said.
Microsoft and Google have similar aims in mind: build brand loyalty with students and hope they can keep it once he or she graduates. Today’s Gmail or Live @ Edu user could be tomorrow’s regular viewer of advertising on the company’s other properties. Or even a corporate decision-maker opting to spend money with the two Internet rivals.
Guess also cited the trend toward other web-based applications for higher education, where software as a service has made inroads where shrinkwrapped or home-brewed applications once dominated the landscape.
Campus IT staff may not like the outsourcing trend, but the cash savings will be significant enough that more campuses will consider it. Universities have generous Internet connections and a student body that expects more than a basic email account during their attendance.
The schools look like they are willing to let Google or Microsoft fulfill those expectations.