Microsoft’s Alberta take-over

By David Wald

Alberta Learning has entered into an agreement with Microsoft Canada and technology solution provider Acrodex Inc., providing Microsoft Office software, system support and licensing to all school boards and post-secondary institutions across Alberta at a cost of $6.3 million.

Officials claim the Provincial Microsoft Licensing agreement aims to save school boards and post-secondary institutions $10 million, and set the standard for integrated technology within the learning systems across North America.

“This is the first of its kind,” said Alberta Learning Minister Dr. Lyle Oberg in a press release. “No other provincial or state government has provided their education community with an agreement of this size and depth.”

Effective immediately, universities could save thousands on licensing and support costs. The average licensing cost per PC at the University of Calgary is $47 per year, based on 7,000 computers. Officials were not available to comment as of press time, however, it is presumed that this new agreement will bring into question where the extra money might go.

“Now, institutions will be saving money,” said Alberta Learning spokesperson Josepha Vanderstoop. “Money normally spent here could be used elsewhere.”

Microsoft Office is one of the most popular office suites, rivalling others such as Corel WordPerfect Office and Lotus SmartSuite. The system will include word-processing, data-base, spread-sheet and other programs.

“Alberta Learning saw that Microsoft was widely used,” Vanderstoop said, adding that this agreement is also part of a needs-based rationale as outlined by the Provinces’ Learning and Technology Policy Framework.

Similarly, according to the Learning and Technology Policy Framework, invested technology must have a return on investment. There are schools out there that do not have access to Microsoft software, making this agreement look even better.

“This opportunity provides Office software across the board,” says Vanderstoop. “Institutions that previously did not have licensing now have access to it, for free.”

All these bells and whistles come somewhat tarnished. Though this opportunity offers learning systems a chance to save thousands and provides those without licensing unprecedented access, once again we may see Microsoft monopolizing the system. And what will happen to the student and faculty discounts offered by the agreement the University of Calgary currently has with Microsoft?

“This is not a requirement,” said Vanderstoop. “Institutions have the choice.”

However, with thousands of dollars available for redistribution, or the chance of running Office for the first time, schools might have difficulty thinking twice before flinching.


Leave a comment