- Erin Kirkland
BY ELYANA TWIGGS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 28, 2010
Many current students forward their University e-mails to different web mail systems, favoring a more cohesive model. Yesterday, Microsoft officials made their pitch as to why the company should be the go-to solution for the University’s IT needs.
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Nine representatives from Microsoft presented their ideas to support the University’s initiative to rejuvenate its information technology infrastructure last night in an East Hall auditorium to a crowd of about 25 students and professors.
The presentation was hosted by NextGen Michigan — a strategic team within the University working toward the overhaul of the IT system — and showcased Microsoft Product Suite as a possibility for a new, collaborative system for online student resources. This Microsoft program would replace the existing University Internet resources that are currently available to students like CTools and ITCS Webmail.
In addition to Microsoft, the University is considering proposals from Google, which will be making its pitch on Oct. 7.
Lynn Johnson, professor and assistant dean of Informatics and Innovation in the School of Dentistry, said that through employing a new IT system the University hopes to become the leading institution of 21st-century information technology. The initiative started this semester and will be implemented within three years, Johnson said.
“We want to go with the vendor that has a strong relationship with the University already,” Johnson told the crowd before the Microsoft representatives took the floor.
Roger Archbold, education accounts manager for Microsoft, said the company’s proposal showcases “an evolutionary product.”
Part of Microsoft’s plan, Archbold said, is to create a program that’s geared directly toward University of Michigan students, faculty and staff. He added that if chosen, Microsoft plans to incorporate the existing CTools into their software.
“We want to put (these programs) in the context of you as a user,” Archbold said.
Tony Franklin, an education solution strategist for Microsoft, discussed Windows Live@EDU, which is a Microsoft program that consolidates social networking sites as well as e-mail, university resources and instant messaging through one web application.
This program also includes SkyDrive, which saves documents onto a web application from the user’s computer. This component would replace MFile, the University’s current integrated file storage system.
Because the University is such a large institution, the winning company stands to gain considerable prestige from the account. In addition, if Google is successful, the corporation would be able to claim a portion of Microsoft’s current 97-percent market penetration in the IT industry.
“We’re Michigan — that’s a big account … ” Johnson said. “And Google would like to go after that.”
Scott Thompson, an education solution strategist for Microsoft, said the corporation is the best choice for the University because of its commitment to user privacy and its strong customer service. He also said the company’s software would be applicable to business software for students after they graduate.
“We have integration across technologies that is unmatched in the industry,” Thompson said.
The University Information Technology Council will ultimately decide which IT system the University will use. In addition to the council, there is also an IT Executive Committee, which is composed of the University’s Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest, University Provost Philip Hanlon, Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, and Tim Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
In order to also have student input in the decision, the University will send out a campus-wide survey through CTools, which will be made available after both presentations.
Students who attended the presentation said the Microsoft representatives didn’t persuade them. Many students said they think Google is still at the forefront of student programs for information technology.
LSA sophomore Omar Abduljaber said he doesn’t think the system Microsoft presented is that much different from the existing University software.
“I thought we were going to add a unified system and I don’t think it’s going to be different from what we already have,” Abduljaber said. “Students will go with Google anyways, without seeing the presentations.”
Engineering freshman Kyle Mattimore also said Google is the popular choice for University students.
“Google has so much positive hype among students,” Mattimore said. “Everyone knows about Google services, but not everyone knows about Microsoft programs.”
Engineering freshman John Fonte said he also uses Google for all of his IT needs, and he can’t see the student body choosing Microsoft.
“Microsoft has kept its old brand names for a while,” Fonte said. “Google is new and fast.”