Google Goes To School

As earlier reported this year, Google launched a premier edition of Google Apps which included email service, calendars, SSO services, instant messaging, spreadsheets, and more. One interesting detail of their recent promotions of Apps is how they’re pushing this out to schools, in both free and paid “premier” service options. This is particularly interesting in the context of all the commentary about how Google is really going head-to-head against Microsoft for marketshare in office applications.

Universities and colleges are typically always looking for ways to cut costs, and the Google Apps services are apparently very attractive to a number of them. Just the email service alone is nearly enough to get lots of universities to seriously consider outsourcing some of their IT work—10 gb storage per account with good uptime guarantees and no longer having to deal with the spam policing are enough to get many an educational IT administrator to salivate. The free, Educational Edition is really cool, too, even if it only offers 2 gb of email storage.

Doesn’t this educationally-targeted promotion campaign sound just the least bit familiar? Oh, that’s because Apple used to provide free or reduced-rate stuff to schools, starting way back in the eighties, in order to get impressionable young people to become dedicated lifelong consumers. That school promotion campaign of Apple’s was cited as being responsible for building a committed user following in the face of Microsoft’s growth, and it helped to drive Apple sales as parents sought to support their children’s education by purchasing computers for the home. Google’s now hopped onto a formula that could work at sliding the thin end of the wedge under Microsoft, and many universities are abuzz with talk about possibly integrating their apps to save on IT resources and money.

The Google Apps “poster child” is apparently Arizona State University, which is one of the earlier, largest public universities to adopt the service in favor of their own home-grown email system. ASU’s decision is being discussed by many other universities across the country after their deal was highlighted in Educause meetings and discussion email lists, as well as articles in campus newspapers all over.

ASU’s vice president and university technology officer, Adrian Sannier, commented about the deal: “We believe that strategic alliances with technology leaders like Google are key to accelerating the contribution that technology can make to ASU’s academic enterprise.”

The university’s press release doesn’t relate how much money they’ll save in man-hours and infrastructure costs from offloading the mail, not to mention how much they may save from using stuff like Google Docs & Spreadsheets instead of MicroSoft Word & Excel.

Microsoft also offers discounts on their software packages, but they don’t appear to’ve targeted the enterprise-wide end of the school equation in the way that Google now is doing.

Here’s a few more of the colleges and universities who are integrating with Google Apps (I linked to news stories or other info pages about each school’s use of Google, where possible):

Some university IT departments are urging caution with turning over so much private data to an outside company, or voicing concerns about service levels compared with their dedicated in-house crews and more-established software packages, but many others appear to be just holding out in a wait-and-see mode (see Plymouth U, UC Irvine, and Arizona U), opting to observe how Google Apps implementations go for other universities before they decide if they’ll switch over.

I earlier mentioned that Google appeared to be planning to build out campus maps through the Sketchup contest, and the Google Apps deal seems to indicate an even larger overall strategy to woo the educational community over to Google and away from Microsoft. Google’s SiteSearch service has already been supporting university websites for many years, and their annual Summer of Code also helps to nurture future technical employees by targeting students.

Chris “Silver” Smith is Lead Strategist at Netconcepts, and a regular contributor to the Locals Only column which appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Google: Apps For Your Domain | Google: Enterprise Search


About The Author: is President of Argent Media, and serves on advisory boards for Universal Business Listing and FindLaw. Follow him @si1very on Twitter.

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