Google and Microsoft are going head to head in a battle to win the hearts and minds of Australia's education sector by offering special programmes for students.
Spearheading Microsoft's education campaign is a pilot dubbed "It's Not Cheating" which was launched in Australia earlier this year offering university students access to Microsoft Office 2007 for A$75 (US$63).
The Australian pilot, which is a world first, resulted in more than 880,000 page views on the local Web site.
Based on the success of this pilot, Microsoft is planning to launch the program globally with the formal Australian launch being held next month.
The pilot began after surveys and focus groups conducted by Microsoft found 88 percent of Australian university students regarded Microsoft Office as essential to their studies but a significant number were deterred by cost.
Monash University IT contracts manager, Catherine Overton, said students had been asking for more flexible methods to acquire Microsoft software which is why the programme has been so well received.
Microsoft is launching the programme in Canada, the UK, US, France, Italy and Spain this month with it ending on April 30, 2008.
But Microsoft isn't alone in its campaign to get university students using its software, Google has an offering of its own that is currently being rolled out at Macquarie University.
Macquarie is the first university in Australia to provide students with customized Google email accounts and Gmail for staff by adopting the Google Apps Education Edition.
Over a period of four days, Macquarie staff created some 68,000 new customised Macquarie Gmail student accounts for 31,000 current students and 37,000 recent graduates.
Macquarie's IT services director, Mary Sharp, said for starters, students now have two gigabytes of e-mail storage capacity, as well as IM capabilities with their contacts, and an online calendar that allows them to add classes, tutorials and meetings right from the Gmail interface.
"Students will also get the benefit of Google's powerful spam filtering and fast tagging and searching of e-mail," she said adding that her next project will be setting up a further 6000 Gmail accounts for Macquarie staff.