Yesterday Microsoft announced a program called Student Advantage that provides students with Office 365 ProPlus Suite for free if the school is already a Microsoft customer. The move by Microsoft is a significant one as the company is clearly trying hard to grab market share from Google in the Education space. With thousands of schools, colleges, and universities “Going Google” Microsoft has been left in the dust by Google thus far. 

How far has Google Apps penetrated the education market? Back in May, we created an infographic entitled “Growing Up Google” where we showed Google’s tremendous impact.

  • More than 20 million students using Google Apps for Education

  • 72 of the top 100 universities adopting Google Apps (top 100 based on U.S. News & World Report)

  • Entire countries standardizing on Google Apps such as the country of Malaysia

Microsoft has been known for some aggressive tactics against Google. For example, earlier in the year, Microsoft played a bit dirty when the company backed a bill that would basically help ban Google Apps being used in schools. (Here are additional details on the story.)

Now that Microsoft is giving Office 365 away to increase adoption among pupils, will it work? Schools are familiar with Microsoft products and no matter what kind of traction Google makes with Google Apps, the vast majority feels comfortable with products and solutions they know, aka Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint. At the end of the day Google Apps is not necessarily a replacement for those tools - but then again it depends on what the school or teachers are trying to accomplish.

Google absolutely had the head start in the education market because they made the technology both cost effective and easy for schools and even entire school districts. Now it looks like Microsoft is ready to put up a more serious fight in the space. Will Microsoft be able to catch up? Will schools give up on Google for a player they know or stick with the powerful collaboration found in Google Apps?