Thai government picks Office 365 for 8 million students

The deployment will be the largest to date for Office 365 in the education field

About 8 million students and 400,000 teachers in Thailand will be given access to Office 365, the biggest deployment yet for Microsoft's cloud apps suite in the education sector.

The Thai education commission has signed a five-year agreement with Microsoft to provide Office 365 free to students and teachers in the agency's jurisdiction.

Wednesday's announcement doesn't say which edition of Office 365 will be used.

There are three education editions. The free one, A2, includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online for IM, presence and audio/video communications.

Unlike the fee-based editions, A2 doesn't include a full desktop version of Office. It does include access to Office Online. That's the browser-based edition that comes with OneDrive for storage and lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

The Thai government already made Office 365 available to about 2 million university students in the country.

Other major Office 365 education customers include Brazil's Sao Paulo State Department of Education (4 million students), India's All India Council for Technical Education (7.5 million seats) and the Catholic International Education Office (4.5 million seats globally).

Office 365's nemesis, Google Apps, has a single education edition and it's free. Earlier this month, Google announced it is developing a tool for the suite to help teachers manage classroom tasks. Google expects to launch the tool, called Classroom, in September.

As Office 365 and Google Apps do battle, it's critical for Microsoft and Google to land education customers, because the deals get students accustomed to using their products early on.

Microsoft also announced Wednesday that it has begun simplifying the Office 365 IT admin console in various ways. For example, Office 365 will be able to check a customer's DNS records and diagnose related problems. Microsoft is also streamlining processes for common admin tasks like adding and managing new users. It's also giving more prominent placement to commonly used settings.

"This is only the start of the journey of improving the Office 365 admin experience," Microsoft official Lawrence Chiu wrote in the blog post.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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