The move is predicted to save Oregon schools over $1.5 million in software hosting and licensing costs.

In April, Oregon announced that it would give its 540,000 public school students free access to the online Google Apps for Education, a move that state officials said could save Oregon’s schools $1.5 million in software hosting and licensing costs over the course of the five-year deal. The announcement made Oregon the first state in the U.S. to announce such a deal … but not for long, as other states—such as Iowa, Colorado, and New York—stepped up to offer similar arrangements.

Kentucky, meanwhile, announced a similar deal with Microsoft to offer Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps for Education, Live@edu, to 700,000-plus school users across the state.

Kentucky’s announcement ratcheted up the rivalry between Microsoft and Google, both of which are competing to attract education users of their web-based eMail and productivity software. And while it remains to be seen how successful these statewide projects will be, and whether they’ll save as much money as state officials are touting, the deals have pushed the concept of “cloud computing” to the forefront of educational technology as an idea well worth exploring.

Related links:

Schools beef up security for web applications

Microsoft, ePals team up on collaborative tools

Oregon schools adopt Google Apps to save cash, expand ed-tech offerings

Google Apps could save Oregon schools $1.5M

Kentucky offers cloud-based software to 700,000 school users

Google’s encrypted search creates problems for schools

Google Apps for Education wins over Iowa and Colorado

NYC schools to deploy free eMail, collaboration tools

Update: Google touts encrypted search fix

Google Apps available to New York schools

Over 10 million students now use Google apps for education