Google Enrolls University of Phoenix

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Posted 2008-01-22 Print this article Print

More than 70,000 students will transition to the Web-based Gmail platform this year. It's a big win for Google, but it's still a long ways from displacing Microsoft Office.

Google scored a big win in its battle to unseat Microsoft on university campuses as the University of Phoenix has announced to its 70,000 students that it will soon convert to Web-based Gmail.

The search engine giant has been waging a quiet war on college and university campuses against the entrenched incumbent Microsoft Office for more than a year with mixed results. Google doesn't charge students and faculties who use Gmail; it only charges administrators and staff for use of Google Apps —its alternative to Office's Word which includes a calendar and instant messaging.

In an e-mail obtained by Baseline, the University of Phoenix cites Gmail's ease of use, ubiquitous accessibility via the Internet, large storage space and collaboration capabilities. "The addition of Gmail is intended to assist you in your coursework, as well as contribute to the successful completion of your degree," the university wrote to students and staff last week.

Gmail will replace the university's Online Learning System, which interfaces with Microsoft's Outlook Express for messaging, scheduling and note taking.

The University of Phoenix is an interesting enterprise deployment for Gmail, since it's also a Web 2.0 organization. Founded in 1989, the school is predominantly a distance-learning institution, with the bulk of its students taking courses online or at one of its 190 satellite locations around the country.

While Google continues to dominate search and keyword online advertising, it has yet to score a major victory against Microsoft in productivity applications. Last fall, Google signed a reselling and support agreement with Capgemini for Google Apps, and the integrator became the first customer to use the productivity suite in its new call center in Junction City, Kan.

While late to the game, Gmail quickly overtook rivals free services Microsoft's Hotmail and Yahoo Mail in terms of pure traffic volume. According to Hitwise, Gmail has between 4 percent and 4.5 percent total market share. Conversely, Hotmail has about a 2 percent share and Yahoo roughly less than .5 percent share.

Google is making some inroads in cash-strapped public schools, where the low cost is enough to off set the loss of some Microsoft Outlook and Office features. Microsoft has staved off deep invasions, though, with steep pricing discounts for schools and students.

According to published report, other universities that have adopted Gmail include Clemson University, University of Texas at San Antonio, Arkansas State University and Kennesaw State University.

Analyst contend that Gmail and Google Apps are not Microsoft Office killers, mostly because they lack key products—such as a presentation (PowerPoint) and accounting (Excel) applications—and key features that many users have come to expect from Microsoft Office. Another strike is the Web-only platform, which limits usage to physical Internet connections.

While Google has no public plans for releasing client software for its applications, it's Google Apps initiative announced last June is designed to allow users to use Google Apps and Gmail offline. A beta of the product has not been released.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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