By Ingrid Lunden
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced that it has signed its largest-ever cloud services deal, an agreement with the All India Council for Technical Education to deploy Microsoft's Live@edu service to some 10,000 technical colleges in the country, covering 7.5 million users.
The deal is significant not just for its size but also as a mark of how cloud services are developing in two big areas at the moment: education and emerging markets - and how Microsoft is staking out a claim to be a player in both.
Under the terms of the deal, the AICTE, an association representing both technical colleges and institutions of technology, will use Live@edu, Microsoft's hosting communication and collaboration service specially customized for the education sector, to offer collaboration services, email, web apps, IM and storage to 7 million students and half a million faculty members. The deployment will take place over the next three moths, Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft has not disclosed the value of the deal, but it won it over competitive bids from some of its biggest rivals in cloud services Google and IBM, another key reason for Microsoft to have secured the deal.
AICTE went for Microsoft, it says, because of the broader portfolio of services that Microsoft offers, and also its competitive pricing.
IT in India is one of the fastest growing segments of its economy - combined with back-office and outsourcing it's an industry worth around $100 billion at the moment. Microsoft has a strong presence in the country already, so getting buy in from students who will be working in that sector in the country longer-term is a good way to ensure more loyalty to Microsoft's products in the future.
In all, there are around 22 million people using Microsoft's Live@edu service, meaning that this newest deal in India represents about one-third of all of Microsoft's cloud/education business.