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Microsoft Claims Its Biggest Office 365 Customer

Microsoft today said the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has agreed to deploy Office 365 across 10,000 technical colleges and educational institutions throughout India, making the cloud service available to 7 million students and 500,000 faculty members.

Colleges that are part of AICTE will start using the Live@edu hosted e-mail, Office Web Apps, instant messaging and SkyDrive storage service over the next six months, and ultimately Office 365 as the version for educational institutional services rolls out. Office 365 will give students and faculty in colleges across India access to Exchange Online e-mail and scheduling, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

While Microsoft is touting AICTE as its biggest cloud customer to date, there's only one problem: The company is not making any money on the deal. Do you even call it a deal when the customer isn't paying anything? It's not that Microsoft gave AICTE any special deal. It offers Live@edu free of charge to any K-12 educational institution and all colleges and universities.

"Even though it is provided for free, we see it as a value for Microsoft and for the school system," said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's VP of worldwide education, in an interview. "This is allowing the governing body and school leaders to have a communication pipeline to a broad set of students and not only improve collaboration across the system but provide a rich set of tools for students in the cloud. That would be difficult using traditional models [software]."

Of course, both Google and Microsoft have been courting schools to deploy their cloud suites for several years for obvious reasons. The goal: Get students hooked and that's what they'll want to use in the workplace in the future.

Also, there is some revenue potential for those educational institutions choosing premium editions of Office 365. Microsoft's Plan A3 includes a copy of Office Professional Plus (the premises version of the software that works with Office 365) and other features, including voicemail (priced at $2.50 for students and $4.50 for faculty and staff). And for those wanting voice capability, Plan A4 includes everything in the A3 plan plus voice capability (priced at $3.00 for students and $6.00 for faculty and staff). Microsoft last month revised its pricing for those services.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 12, 2012


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