Google generated serious attention when it landed the city of Los Angeles as a paying customer for Google Apps for 34,000 municipal employees.
Many people may not know the company also targets schools and universities with its collaboration suite in the cloud. Some 3,000 schools, from Arizona State University out west to east coast Ivy Leaguers Cornell and Brown use Google Apps for e-mail, word processing and other chores.
Oregon became the first state in the nation to sign up for Google Apps for Education, which is free, in kindergarten though 12th grade classrooms across its 197 school districts.
The Oregon Department of Education said April 28 it will provide all teachers, staff and students with Gmail for e-mail, Google Docs for word processing and presentations, Google Calendar, Google Sites for Website publishing, Google Talk for video conferencing and other apps.
Google Apps Education Manager Jaime Casap wrote in a blog post:
"With Google Apps, students in Oregon can build Websites or e-mail teachers about a project. Their documents and e-mail will live online in the cloud -- so they'll be able to work from a classroom or a computer lab, at home or at the city (or county) library. And instead of just grading a paper at the end of the process, Oregonian teachers can help students with their docs in real time, coaching them along the way."
The department noted that it expected to save $1.5 million per year in e-mail across the state thanks to this switch, with additional cost savings in reduced hardware and software upgrades.
After all, Google hosts all of the data on its servers, so schools needn't purchase servers or pay for software maintenance.
""Educators and students now have access to the same cutting-edge technology used in the business world with added federal student privacy and confidentiality protections," said State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo. "In a time of dwindling resources, I am grateful for Google's partnership. Our students have a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the workplace by using workplace technology in the classroom.""
From a competitive standpoint, this is interesting because schools have long been the domain of Microsoft when it comes to productivity tools, but we as a society are becoming more collaborative.
Students used to type up their papers in Microsoft Word, print them out, and hand them to their teachers.
They still do that, of course, but some more progressive classrooms let students compose their work and upload it to a wiki to share it with teachers and even other students in the case of a group project.
Microsoft also offers schools Microsoft Exchange Labs hosted e-mail applications, but we scarcely hear about it.
This battle for the cloud is fierce and it's just getting started.