Microsoft wins 18,000-seat cloud contract with University of Arizona

Cloud battle between Microsoft and Google heats up

Score one for Microsoft in the cloud. The University of Arizona is moving 18,000 faculty and staff members to Microsoft’s online e-mail and collaboration system, the university said today.

The Google vs. Microsoft debate typically focuses on whether businesses should use Google’s Web-based series of applications or Microsoft’s more expensive, but richer set of packaged software Office applications.

But Microsoft has a viable cloud-based e-mail system as well, with its Business Productivity Online Suite, which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. 

BPOS list pricing starts at $10 per user per month, or $120 a year, significantly more than Google Apps’ $50 per user per year. But Microsoft is serious about competing against Google in the cloud apps market, and thus seems to be offering some pretty heavy discounts.

For example, a software company called Serena Software recently switched from Google Apps back to Microsoft because Microsoft offered a discounted package including the on-premise software and BPOS, according to an article in eWeek

The University of Arizona, meanwhile, needed a centralized program to replace a series of “numerous and antiquated e-mail and calendaring systems,” a common problem in the IT world. 

“In addition to updating the university’s numerous and antiquated e-mail and calendaring programs to one centralized system, employees will get 10 GB mailboxes and new features such as instant messaging, presence and online meetings with the ability to share their desktop, audio or video with other users on or off campus,” the Microsoft announcement said. 

That Arizona chose Microsoft over Google is a nice feather in Microsoft’s cap, but Google has plenty of large customers to brag about as well, including the City of Los Angeles, and Motorola’s mobile devices division.

As an educational customer, Arizona likely received special pricing not available to private businesses. But customers of all kinds should benefit financially from the competition between Google and Microsoft, particularly if they are savvy at negotiating with vendors.

The Google vs. Microsoft cloud apps battle is heating up and should only get better throughout 2010 with both companies planning substantial upgrades to their hosted services. 

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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