foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world


Google snatches away Microsoft's biggest customer

, posted: 31-Jul-2008 09:04

According to this article here, Google managed to snatch Microsoft's biggest customer away. The NSW Department of Education in Australia is going to provide Google e-mail accounts to up to 1.3 million users of its e-mail system, replacing the previously used offering from Microsoft. In doing so it cuts its cost from $30 million to $9.5 million over three years.

Now, somehow I don't quite understand what the previous offering from Microsoft actually entailed? Just e-mail accounts in some sort of hosted environment? Hotmail? Or actually installed software?

The article also offers a reason why large companies are actively pursuing the e-mail market in educational facilities, hoping that people will want to keep their e-mail for life, thus binding them to the vendor.

At any rate, I think the NSW Department of Education missed an opportunity here to free their user's data. Instead, it leads them from one vendor's proprietary system to another's. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. And Google is not exactly known for being very open and not ... you know ... occasionally (or systematically) sneaking a peek at what people are doing online. One of the reasons I try to avoid them when I can. Supposedly, there won't be ads on these accounts, but will this be for the life of the account, or only for the time that the person owning it is a student? And does it also mean the contents of the e-mail are not scanned? And are the usual Google tracking cookes not being set, which allow Google to follow you on your journey across the Internet? Somehow I doubt that.

If the NSW Department of Education would have taken the opportunity to change to open source software for the task then there wouldn't be any such concerns. But I guess it's a sign of the times that SaaS has become widely accepted. It's a threat for user's freedoms just like proprietary software is. Proliferation of SaaS will make the battle between open source and proprietary software less relevant, and for convenience sake leads its users back into a new form of lock-in and dependencies. Something that doesn't get as much attention as it should.

Other related posts:
Half of Australians think it's OK to pirate Microsoft software
Windows 7 Starter: The anti-feature edition
Vista: Microsoft's biggest failure yet?








Comment by CJPhoto, on 31-Jul-2008 09:55

Slight correction to your article.  Google didn't snatch microsofts biggest customer.  It is the biggest customer Google has snatched from Microsoft.

My question is if they are going to let students use a webmail provider, why not let them choose who they use?  Does it mater if one student uses yahoo, one hotmail and another google?

Companies control emails due to privacy reasons, for students this level of control isn't needed is it?


Author's note by foobar, on 31-Jul-2008 12:13

@CJPhoto: Regarding the 'biggest customer' claim. Yeah, I'm not sure if the original article actually makes that very clear. There are other sources that more clearly speak of "Microsoft's biggest customer", though.

But you are right: The question really is why they have to mandate something. Maybe they want to be seen as the one providing the student's IT-related needs, and thus want to have something specifically branded?

I think the article alludes to the real reason, though: They have set something up with special security related features, and that is understandable.


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New Zealand


  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.




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