In my engagements with prospects and clients, the following are some of the concerns that I have found:
· Local mail server replication:
One of the aspects we have heard them asking for the most is local replication on regional servers so that uptime is maintained regardless of downtime in the international link. This is one of the factors some schools are opting to go on Google Apps for Education, as they offer a level of replication through the Google cache servers in the regional ISP’s.
· ILM (Identity Lifecycle Management):
The ILM 2007 is not being offered by some regional Microsoft Distributors, as the solution being preferred is Forefront, for Identity Management, which is not compatible with the Live @ Edu environment. In an environment that has not upgraded to 2010, this becomes a bit tricky. Also, the 32 bit 64 bit differences in management tools could be daunting to an organization that is not strong on Active Directory and management tools. Google on the other hand handle Identity management online and through API’s. The depth of Identity Management offered on the MS front is incomparable, however the level of complexity is also greater. Perhaps for Microsoft, the product offered should only be the express version, as most tasks can be managed on browser and on PowerShell scripting.
A heavy presence in local technology initiatives, public government policy making, event sponsorship and capacity building amongst ICT Mavens enable Google solutions to be easily prescribed, by building strong links of trust in the technology fraternity. On the flip side, the perspectives and perceptions on MS is a delinked and un-participative closed network which does not strongly interact with other technologists. Quite like the Equity bank revolution where we saw the bank take to the streets and hawk to customers, Google has one of its best engineers located at the I-Hub and providing direction to anyone interested in technology and in Google as a whole! This is definitely very different from the Microsoft approach.
In most instances, a partner has provided licensing and as such is the partner on record. They may however see no value in ensuring the school utilizes the Live @ Edu component of their school agreement which, while Microsoft drives the shift to cloud, is an integral component of the global strategy.
Since Microsoft has a stronger and more distributed partnership structure which should be a strength, one would presume that, being on the same side, licensing partners would work closely together with implementation partners. The implementation partner/partners would have pipeline access through the licensing partners on closed leads or leads in progress, so that the solution is provided as a unified front as Microsoft.
Google on their part have invested heavily in a team driving education and have a purposed manpower that is driving their cause. This team has done well thus far, but they are also attempting a roll out on a partnership structure.
· Live @ Edu competing with Exchange:
Some institutions are viewing Live @ Edu as an option to phase out their on premise exchange both for staff and students, and as such partners deploying exchange to institutions are not too keen to push it as a solution. Thus what is happening instead is the entity phases out their exchange environment with Google Apps for education. Would you rather not your client phase out one product for another, rather than going to the competitor?
· The Compelling Offering:
Live@ Edu offers seamless integration with popular education tools such as Moodle and KOHA library systems. Most education communities utilize these as they are free and plug in to a large community of schools from which they pool resources.
However a gap in Live @ Edu and in the mailing integration as a whole is Video and audio conferencing in Gtalk, seamlessly interlaced in the mail ad not as a third party application, the ease of use in creation of wikis and webpages using Google Sites (Remember, Microsoft had Windows Live Spaces which they shut down favour of WordPress blogs, without providing an automated authentication linkage within Live@edu into WordPress, particularly for new users. The new plan in 365 for education is Sharepoint) provision of SMS messaging integration, particularly for calendaring and notifications.
This is a specific offering the Google has put together, by acquiring regional PRSP providers and thus seamlessly integrating regional SMS provision to their regional services. Google has heavily localized its service offering and provided region specific content aggregation and distribution channels across Africa. With aggregated YouTube channels, android applications,search localization, they provide more than a single platform but give a whole environment.
Microsoft would have to do a lot to tackle this threat, as they have more or less been kicked out of the web.
Currently the partners offering this integration in the region have not been as proactive as competitors offering SMS integration services. For schools for example, a synergy of the IT Academy Program driven together with Live @ Edu would sell the value of both offering Microsoft education and utilizing Microsoft’s cloud offering.
- Google Apps for Education (edugeek.net)
- User Policy Management Added to Google Apps (freetech4teachers.com)
- Google Apps for Education just got a lot better (zdnet.com)
- Skype on Windows loses bundled Google apps (electronista.com)
- Google Business Apps (mademan.com)
- Google Apps Vs Office 365? It All Depends (informationweek.com)
- Gmail or Exchange? Six questions to help you make the right choice (zdnet.com)