Even though Microsoft is offering free Office 365 to students and educational institutions worldwide, it is losing out its hold on educational sector. Instead of Office 365, educational institutions are preferring Google apps for education: Google Docs, Google Classroom etc. Accordingly, Chromebook sales are rising. So far, 5 million Chromebooks have been sold in the fiscal year of 2014.
It indicates around 235% increase in the Chromebook sales as the fiscal year of 2013 registered only around two million sales. With Google cloud and classroom in place and low cost netbooks customized to meet the needs of Google Education, Chromebook seems to be preferred choice of most educational institutions. Besides, Chromebooks are also offering discount on bulk sales and cannot be compared to Microsoft’s Surface as the latter are more for working professionals even though lightweight and cloud heavily integrated.
The free Office 365 for students and schools worldwide may work in the fiscal year of 2015-2016. It has been just a little over two months since Microsoft made the offer to educational institutes. It has to be seen how many educational institutions adopt Office 365. There is a good scope as the cloud-based offering is well structured against Google Education, which too is cloud based and includes apps for studying online, collaborations, and for checking emails etc. Office 365 has OneNote that makes it easier for students to take notes. It then has almost endless storage free per subscription other than apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are more related to real life working situations compared to Google docs, sheets and presentations. Bulk subscriptions to Office 365 will also get the schools a lot of cloud storage for free.
On the other hand, Chromebooks are really cloud-based netbooks that are affordable easily compared to full-fledged laptops. They may not perform many tasks but are more than enough to study and have fun at the same time. They are relatively easier to handle compared to PCs and can be used anywhere and anytime.
A good reason for Chromebook hitting 5 million mark is because Google made a start long ago – in 2009 – when the market was going through recession while Microsoft was not even focusing on education sector according to ABI Research’s Van Vector.
The idea of offering Office 365 free to students may change the scenario if enough institutions adopt it. The ones just getting onto cloud will sure go for Office 365 while it is difficult to say for the ones that are already using Google Education apps. People do not like changes unless absolutely necessary.
As of now, the competition has started and by the end of fiscal year 2015, we’ll get the numbers to know if the strategy of Microsoft had worked and if yes, how much of it cut into the Google’s share in education sector.