Tilburg was supposed to be the first Dutch university to migrate its students to Microsoft's Live@edu cloud services. But because Live@edu's successor, Office 365, is still not available, the university is abandoning the migration and switching to Google Apps instead.In the fierce battle for the Dutch education market, Microsoft has suffered an awkward setback. Tilburg University, which has been dabbling with cloud services for two years, has unceremoniously dumped Microsoft for its rival Google. The reason? Microsoft is dragging its feet with the transition from Live@edu to Office 365, which is still not completely available to schools, colleges and universities. So Tilburg is putting its 13,000 students' accounts in the Google cloud instead, moving away from Live@edu.Microsoft confirms that the complete Office 365 suite, launched in June 2011, is still not available for the education market. "Our transition from Live@edu to Office 365 for education is phased. Exchange Online and Lync Online are available right now, and the complete, integrated suite will be available from June," said Michael Kleine, manager for education at Microsoft Netherlands, who adds that this road map is worldwide.Too late, said Corno Vromans, deputy director of IT services at Tilburg University. "We want the migration finished before the summer. I'd actually rather go with Office 365, but it's taking too long. Microsoft has been cooperating and trying hard, but we simply can't wait any longer." So Vromans is now migrating his students to Google Apps for Education.
Microsoft's Kleine said: "Of course I'm disappointed, we worked together very well, but it's his choice. No hard feelings."Both Microsoft and Google offer free cloud services, including webmail, document editing and online collaboration, in trying to conquer the education market.
But in the Netherlands most universities and colleges have been skeptical of giving up control to these American IT giants. They have collectively demanded that Microsoft, Google, and indeed any cloud provider, must seamlessly connect to SURFfederatie, a federated authentication platform. In this way, colleges can switch cloud providers while managing and keeping there own accounts and login credentials. This makes migrating from Live@edu to Google Apps a relatively easy affair for the Tilburg University.
Two other issues have made the switch from Microsoft to Google feasible, said Vromans. Before, Google offered customers in European countries like the Netherlands a contract under U.S. law. This put off many a legal department. Google has since changed this, so contracts fall within the jurisdiction of the European Union. Microsoft has had this option for a while.Another issue is the widespread apprehension in Europe about U.S. police and intelligence agencies snooping in sensitive data from European citizens and businesses through the powers of the U.S. Patriot Act. Microsoft (and likewise, Amazon) appeared to soothe this worry by gearing up a "European cloud," hosting their customers' data in datacenters within the E.U.Ultimately, though, being U.S. companies the U.S. Patriot Act still applies to them, regardless of where the data is physically hosted, Microsoft conceded last year. "The fact that data in Microsoft's European cloud is as accessible to U.S. government agencies as Google's worldwide cloud really was an eye opener," said Vromans.Because of these concerns, most universities and colleges are only putting their students in the cloud. Mail and documents of researchers and staff is still managed and hosted 'on premise'.
While Microsoft may be slow in bringing Office 365 to schools and colleges, it is not wasting time trying to catch other, even bigger fish. Just last week the Erasmus University of Rotterdam announced it is moving about 33,000 student accounts to Live@edu.