The NSW Department of Education and Training has awarded a tender that I had the opportunity to learn about from them when I was in Australia last November...

The New South Wales Department of Education and Training will dump one of the world's largest installations of Microsoft's Outlook/Exchange email and platform and issue its 1.3 million school students with Gmail accounts instead.

The plans will see SMS Management and Technology implement the new Gmail system in partnership with its sub-contractors Google and Telstra, under a three-year deal expected to be worth [AUD]$9.5 million over three years, with a two-year extension option.

The previous Microsoft system, installed by Unisys under a contract initially worth $33 million over three years but extended by another three, was built in 2003, but only actually reached students during 2007.
Some interesting discussion points here.  

In the education space, both Google and Microsoft have "free" hosted mailbox offerings.  They both have chosen to compete in this student e-mail segment in non-traditional economic terms... at the moment, no, IBM doesn't have a similar offering, and I'm well aware of the implications there.  [IBM chose not to bid on the NSW DET tender]

Still, I put "free" in quotes for a reason.  The article indicates that this contract is worth AUD$9.5 million over three years.  On the surface, that's AU$2.43/user/year...inexpensive indeed, but I thought this was "free"?  A lot of organizations have been throwing around Google's US$50/user/year enterprise mail offering, but not considering the additional costs to make that service operationally useful for them.  Here's an example of hard costs beyond the service provider fee.

Also, the use case here in quite different.  Of those 1.3 million students, many will, by NSW DET's own indications, never access their account -- younger grade school students have little need for school-based e-mail.  Others will get a couple mails a day/week/month.  It's hard to determine what the real operational costs per user will be.

Last, this is an e-mail only decision.  Out of scope were productivity tools, collaboration, and even instant messaging.  All of those would change the functional, and cost, profile quite a bit.

This will be an interesting deployment to watch.  The DET told me that one of their visions around this tender was that students would be using smartphone devices as their primary client to access the system within five years.  I've repeated that a bunch of times in presentations and meetings since then, as it is an interesting vision for all segments of the market.  But it definitely forces a decision for a lowest-common-denominator decision on what service and interface to provide.

Link: MIS Australia: NSW schools dump Outlook for Gmail >

(Aside: MIS Australia has some weird technology in place that prevents text selection from the browser.  I typed in the quote from their article manually.  Seems like a rather backward-looking way to try to enforce copyright)

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