Google is announcing at EDUCAUSE today that, four years after introducing Google Apps for Education, it now has 10 million active users at universities and K-12 schools worldwide. Active users are people within Google Apps domains who have signed on within the last
7 30 days [Update: Google clarified this particular metric, correcting previous communications from a company spokesperson] and include students, staff, alumni, and even parents (in some K-12 settings), depending upon how the schools have rolled out the services.
In a blog post this morning, Google noted,
In the last four years we’ve seen a lot of changes, both to our tools and the general landscape of cloud computing in higher education. According to the 2010 Campus Computing survey, nearly 85% of four-year colleges and universities are already using or considering the move to the cloud by offering hosted email to their students. Of the schools that have already made the move, more than 56% of them have gone Google.
The evolution of the Google Apps suite of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools really has been nothing short of extraordinary. What Arizona State University originally called "alien technology" four years ago when it was the first major university to roll out Apps, replacing its on-premise student email solution, is now entirely commonplace. Even then, though, Apps was relatively easy to deploy, with ASU and Google staff ready to go live within 2 weeks.
Although the 10 million active user milestone is a big deal, the rate of growth seen in Google Apps for Education is even more impressive. According to Google,
As part of this sustained momentum, we’ve seen the number of active Google Apps for Education users double since last fall, with more than 2 million new users coming on board since May alone; not to mention the emerging growth we’re now seeing in the K-12 space.
A lot of you will be able to answer this question, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway: With all of this obvious demand and utilization, why is Google giving Edu Apps away for free? After all, Apps for Education has most of the features in Google Apps Premier Edition for which enterprises pay $50 per user. It turns out that there are actually a few answers, most of which aren't as cynical as the question:
- The more Google Apps users the company has, the more it can refine and develop features, get feedback, and otherwise improve the product that it sells in other markets.
- Google Apps for Education doesn't deliver ads to students (or can be limited to education-related ads). However, students accustomed to Apps will be more likely to use Gmail and consumer Apps in their personal lives, broadening Google's advertising base.
- Similarly, students who have come to depend upon the collaboration and easy content creation tools in Apps during college will look Premier Apps when they enter the workforce. What better way to build a generation of highly-educated users who demand cloud-based tools like those in Apps from their employers (or who incorporate them in their own businesses)?
- The more people (whether students, staff, or parents) associate Google with the cloud and productivity, the stronger Google's brand.
It's a win for everybody, but especially the students and faculty who can now interact and collaborate in ways that they simply couldn't before their schools "went Google."