Microsoft to Offer Office 365 to Schools for Free

Schools that use Office 365 for academic purposes will be happy to hear the recent announcement made by Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s VP for Education. In a post on his blog, Salcito announced the launch of a new product called Office 365 for Education, which will provide schools with a comprehensive cloud-based collaborative platform made by one of the premier developers of productivity software. Office 365 for Education will include almost all features of the enterprise version of the product – and will be available to academic institutions for free.

Office 365 is already utilized by many school districts, colleges and universities around the country including Dartmouth, Cornell, the Tennessee Department of Education and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. In addition, the platform was recently selected by the Scottish Government to power their Glow project, which connects more than 1.2 million teachers and students across the country.

 In Qatar, all 93,000 students and 15,000 teachers will have access to Office 365 at their fingertips. There are many schools across Europe moving to Office 365, including the University of Dundee that is moving off Novell GroupWise to expand communication capabilities on campus. These schools join other large academic institutional and countrywide commitments to Office 365, such as the India Council for Technical Education with 7.5 million users and the Catholic International Education Office with over 4.5 million users across 102 countries.

It will take about a year and a half to fully transition to the new platform, so the Catholic International Education Office will continue its contract with RM Education at least until December of next year. However, according to TMCnet, some schools have already started using Office 365 when classes began this fall.

Although the initial rumors prior to the official announcement pointed towards Office 365 for Education being available for free to students, the consensus prediction was that academic institutions and faculty members were going to have pay for license. The software was designed to replace the previous Microsoft collaboration effort aimed at the education market, Live@Edu.

Simon Jones ponders the ethical question of supplying free office software and services to school children and feels that the main factor driving Google and Microsoft’s to power these free services to schools is to get young users to get used to their products from an early age. In both cases, the ideology is to sell more software or services and for that the user has to be educated. By educating target markets at an early age, the companies achieve that objective.