I was surprised to read the news that the University of Nebraska are moving their email system from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud.  When I saw Microsoft paid $250,000.00USD to get Nebraska to choose Office 365 instead of Google Apps for Education, it all became clear.  Nebraska took the money and followed the bribe.

Here’s the InfoWorld take on the switch:

Many members of the press — and many of Microsoft’s customers — apparently don’t realize that Microsoft sales teams have copious amounts of business incentive funds (BIFs) at their disposal. The fact that the university received BIFs is hardly unusual, although discussing the amount of the grant in an open blog post must’ve raised more than a few hackles.

Here’s what you and your company need to know about BIFs.

First, BIFs for customers are never in cash. Usually BIFs take the form of credits against product purchases from Microsoft or vouchers that can be used to hire third-party consultants or buy hardware from those consultants.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at this sort of deal.  Microsoft wants big customers to help publicize its move into the cloud and universities with antiquated email systems like Lotus Notes are desperate to get out from under a dying technology.

I am surprised that MSFT paid so much to get Nebraska on board.  I believe the school could have been had for about a fifth of what the Redmond giant paid, but kudos to Nebraska for hardballing their way to a quarter of a million dollar payout.

Here’s Nebraska’s public take on the transition:

We expect that the cloud-based system for UNCA, UNK, UNL and UNO will significantly reduce recurring costs due to a reduction in hardware, software, licensing and staffing needs. It is estimated that the annual operating costs associated with delivering an e-mail service can be reduced by more than 50 percent from the current cost, which is just under $1 million. There will also be one-time upfront costs associated with migrating current Lotus Notes accounts to a new system, rewriting some applications and providing training, but significant savings will be realized over the long term.

I’ve used Google Apps for years and I’ve done a lot of work in Office 365 — and I have to say the comparison isn’t even close.  Google wins hands down.  However, if I were paid $250,000.00USD to reconsider my choice, I too, would happily be purchased by Microsoft to change my mind — just as my Alma Mater did before me.

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