Swish! And that’s another 700,000 hearts and minds won by Microsoft via its [email protected] cloud computing suite of applications. The unofficial scoreboard was already favoring [email protected] over its top contender—Google Apps for Education. The Mountain View hometown heroes, with their 8 million Google Apps for Education users, have been lagging behind Team Ballmer and [email protected], which boasts 11 million users worldwide. But in the wake of Google’s recent showboating over its victories in Los Angeles and Oregon, this next one’s got to sting.
While Google faced frustration from Yale and UC Davis, Microsoft closed a groovy deal with the Kentucky Department of Education. [email protected] brings free access to web-based email, calendars, document sharing, online collaboration tools and 15 gigabytes of email storage plus 25 gigabytes of file storage to over half a million students and faculty. Microsoft earned style points with the victory as well by pulling off the largest cloud deployment in the U.S. over a single weekend. Chuck Austin, product manager for Kentucky’s Department of Education, says that the smooth move to [email protected] will save the state $6.3 million over the next four years. That just manages to edge out the cost savings reported from Google’s Oregon Department of Education deal, which was reported at $1.5 million per year (times four is $6 million).
However, the real booty over which this bout is being battled has little to do with upfront dollar figures. The true prize: the promise of lifelong brand loyalty. These free cloud-based education products—which do not feature advertising, by the way—are getting the next generation of web users familiar and comfortable with either Microsoft or Google products. A win with the state’s Department of Education means scoring an Exchange, Bing and Live or Gmail, Google and Google Apps user down the road. That’s going to matter big time as the warring tech giants continue to get all up into each other’s business (literally). Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, AdMob, AdSense, iAds—they’re all different battlegrounds in the same global war.
This recent win is important for Microsoft which lately has been perceived as a lumbering incumbent sinking deeper into irrelevance (see: Apple’s market cap and the faltering hype surrounding the Windows 7 phone). But with more deft maneuvers like what we saw in Kentucky, Microsoft can easily prove that the old man’s still got it.