Hot on the heels of a deal whereby Microsoft will provide free e-mail, instant messaging, and storage in the cloud to students, faculty, and staff in Kentucky schools, the company has announced it will also help provide free e-mail to students and teachers in New York City schools as well as to the student's parents.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced it will partner with ePals to offer the company's SchoolMail service beginning with the 2010/2011 school year as part of a contract set to run for five years.
SchoolMail will use Microsoft Live@edu technologies -- principally Exchange 2010 -- on the back end to provide e-mail to some two million students and parents, according to Microsoft and ePals.
"ePals will be using Microsoft Exchange Web Services and Outlook Live to build the email system and new calendar application that will connect to New York's on-premise system for teachers," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a post to the company's Education Insights blog Thursday.
"It will enable better communication and collaboration among teachers, parents and students so families can be more involved in their child's education and success," the post continued.
The deal is similar to the Commonwealth of Kentucky agreement, announced in early June, that will provide online communications and storage to some 700,000 users.
At the time, Microsoft trumpeted the Kentucky schools deployment as one of the largest deployment of services "in the cloud" ever. Microsoft has been aggressively promoting its recent cloud deals in the face of big inroads by Google for the search giant's online applications.
Even though such contracts are free to users, Microsoft is aggressively going after educational organizations with its Live@edu program. For instance, the company projects that, by running the services in Microsoft's computing cloud, Kentucky's schools will save some $6.3 million over four years, largely in hardware costs.
"This move to the cloud will save the [NYC school] district an estimated $5 million annually on infrastructure and maintenance costs," the blog post added.
Certainly, free services coupled with lowered hardware, software, and administrative costs can be a powerful motivator for IT managers in hard-pressed K through 12 educational systems.
"The New York City Department of Education is the largest system of public schools in the United States, serving about 1.1 million students in over 1,600 schools," according to ePals' statement.
ePals also pointed out that New York schools will not pay anything for the e-mail service, and neither will users be subjected to any online ads.