Call it the Google Apps for EDU road-show.
Starting in Mountain View on Google's campus September 8, members of Google's Apps for EDU team are boarding a Google bus to visit various universities using, or that just started using Google Apps.
Google offers these Web-based apps, including its Gmail e-mail, Docs, Spreadsheets, word processing and presentations software and the Sites wiki, as alternatives to Microsoft's traditional client-server Outlook e-mail and SharePoint collaboration apps, which users download.
The Apps for EDU team, which can now boast to having more than one million users at universities all over the country, will stop first at the University of Southern California on Sept 9, with the road-show ending at Northwestern University on Oct 3.
Jeff Keltner, business development manager for Google Apps for Education, said he and his team will do formal presentations on Google Apps for students and faculty and spend the rest of the day meeting with anyone who wants to learn about its Apps.
Google Apps for EDU officials will also celebrate and visit with some new customers, including: Collin County Community College District, Francis Marion University, The George Washington University, Indiana University, Kean University, Kent State University, Kishwaukee College, Montgomery County Community College, University of Florida, University of San Diego and the University of Virginia.
Presumably, Google will try to sway users who are still using home-cooked e-mail and other forms of productivity and collaboration software from Sun Microsystems and Microsoft.
Keltner said many of these students are using Google's Gmail Web mail app, but that his job will be to educate students about other Apps they may not be aware of, including Docs and Calendar.
"People are really taking advantage of the mail application but are beginning to wonder how to take advantage of the other applications," Keltner told me. "A lot of this is about reaching out to the schools' students and faculty on an individual basis and talking to them about how they use the technology."
Google is anxious to keep the mighty wolf that is Microsoft from university doors. Microsoft in recent months has bolstered its Live@edu project for communications and collaboration software based on Microsoft Exchange Server.
If Google can spread some good will about its Apps, it might give students and faculty pause to consider using Google's young software.
It's already leveraging this approach at customer ACU (Abilene Christian University), which offers students free iPhones. Google optimizes several applications, including search, Gmail and YouTube, for the iPhone.