Google Apps to Meet iPhone at Texas University

Abilene Christian University has adopted Google Apps and will pair them with free iPhones for students and faculty next fall.

When Abilene Christian University CIO Kevin Roberts learned his e-mail administrator was leaving in 2006, he nearly freaked out.

He took a breath and considered his options, he said. Rather than manage the school's existing Sun Java System Messaging Servers, Sun Java System Calendar Servers and "rogue" Microsoft Exchange servers himself or hire a new admin, Roberts said he went with Google Apps Education Edition in 2007.

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After weighing the options-Google, Microsoft Live, Exchange, and Sun Microsystems' offerings-Roberts said it became clear the SAAS (software as a service) path was the route he wanted to take to save his school time and money. In moving to Google Apps, Roberts was able to fill the e-mail admin hole with a new developer position.

He said he also figures he's saving the school at least $100,000 a year in salaries, licensing fees, storage and server maintenance costs.

"It's been a great decision for us," Roberts told eWEEK, noting that 80 percent of the school's 5,000-plus students opted to use opted to use Google Apps fon "G-Day," April 11, 2007, which was when Roberts flipped the switch on Google Apps.

Next fall, it could get even better. ACU will offer its faculty and about 900 incoming freshmen free Apple iPhones or Apple iPod Touches. ACU will foot the iPhone and service bill for its teachers, while students who choose the iPhone will have to pay for their service plans through AT&T.

The iPhone offer is a great contract for Apple, but it could prove to be just as good for Google. The search vendor currently optimizes several applications, including search, Gmail and YouTube, for the iPhone.

Take into account that more than 6,000 students and faculty have been using Google Apps for more than a year and Google with minimal effort will be able to acclimate thousands of people to its Apps on the iPhone.

"A smart phone that doesn't do e-mail or calendaring is pretty much a useless device," Roberts said. "The fact that the iPhone is already optimized for Google is a huge win for us."