Google Edu Apps vs. Live@Edu: number nonsense

Google Edu Apps vs. Live@Edu: number nonsense

Summary: ZDNet's resident student blogger, Zack Whittaker, suggested yesterday that Google was losing the battle for cloud-based groupware dominance in schools to Microsoft's Live@Edu offering. To that I say two things: I'm not thinking so andThe numbers get in the way of much more important considerationsGoogle claims 7 million active student users of its Apps for Education.


ZDNet's resident student blogger, Zack Whittaker, suggested yesterday that Google was losing the battle for cloud-based groupware dominance in schools to Microsoft's Live@Edu offering. To that I say two things:

  1. I'm not thinking so and
  2. The numbers get in the way of much more important considerations

Google claims 7 million active student users of its Apps for Education. Microsoft, for it's part, according to spokesperson Kelby Johnson, doesn't want to bother with the "numbers game." They simply want to deliver the best products to meet student needs. It's safe to say, however, that a lot of schools are using Live@Edu in some capacity.

By Zack's calculations (that include some pretty bloody sweeping assumptions, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt), as many as 50 million students are using Live@Edu. I think that's probably a bit of a stretch, but adoption of Live@Edu is quite good, particularly at the university level where, as Zack points out, major investments have already been made in Microsoft ecosystems.

To be honest, what students are really using is Facebook, in drastically higher numbers than either Google's or Microsoft's offerings. That being said, Zack's numbers miss a couple of important points, regardless of which product you prefer (and both are quite useful and mature). First, while Live@Edu stands alone and provides some really compelling features (high-fidelity document viewing, high-capacity SkyDrive, etc.), it really shines when integrated with Active Directory and SharePoint environments. Schools looking to leverage open source tools, including OpenOffice and non-Microsoft LDAP services will see less advantage.

This leads me to my second point: K-12 schools can enjoy an easy, free, turnkey, entirely cloud-based groupware solution using Google Apps for Education. While they can also use only the free Live@Edu service, it will lack the functionality out of the box, so to speak, of Google Apps. Where IT staff are few and far between, Edu Apps doesn't get much easier.

The most important point, however, is that the numbers game, posturing, and press releases mean far less than the competition they represent. Why did Microsoft release Live@Edu with so many impressive features and preview Sharepoint 2010 technologies as a result for millions of users? Partly to deliver great solutions to educators, I'm sure, but in large part to beat Google at its own game.

Why is Google focusing on radically improving the fidelity of their Docs products and rolling out new Apps features so quickly? I have no doubt there's a little bit of altruism there, but they need to stay competitive with Microsoft's Live@Edu offering, as well as their desktop productivity software and on-premise solutions.

Apps and Live@Edu are two different approaches to solving the same problem. The real winners here are students and educational institutions who have access to cutting-edge groupware solutions to collaborate, communicate, and produce content more effectively, anytime, anywhere. Competition is our friend; I don't care who has gotten more students and schools to drink their particular brand of Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid's tasty no matter what the flavor.

Topics: Collaboration, Apps, Cloud, Enterprise Software, Google, Microsoft, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • You should see what I emailed Kelby the other day...

    ... of course they want to get into a numbers war. What else are they doing it for?
    • Numbers are important

      seeing that Live@EDU [i]is[/i] the better product with the built in Exchange support and whatnot, if Google has more users, then the numbers are important for the fact that they would show MS they need to get the word out better.
      John Zern
  • RE: Google Edu Apps vs. Live@Edu: number nonsense

    Chris - You focused on how these products can be used in a K-12 environment, but you overlooked the legal issues. Most schools have to be mindful of what technology they are giving students under age 18 because of state and federal laws that protect childrens' privacy. That is why you're seeing Google and Microsoft focus on the higher education market. I'm impressed that you were able to find a way around the system for your school, but for most of us, it would be an uphill battle to get parents and school administrators to appove us issuing kids a personal email account.
  • All MS offerings soon to be free to ED?

    Good Show Chris!!!!

    When MS offers FREE: 200X server, ISA Server, Windows 7, Exchange Server, Active Directory, Office, PowerPoint, Outlook and all the "CALS" need to be in compliance to Ed institutions then the Live@Edu point is valid. Until then (don't hold your breath), it is a moot argument.

    M$ happily supplies their cascade of "needed" products for email delivery and a glorified set of typewriting tools; eagerly charging a comparatively PREMIUM price for an over-kill solution to those in TECH ED who have no imagination and who want to push an "ON" button and move on.

    The criminal reality is that most schools could save $200/yr or more a seat on Google's Gmail offering alone. Exchange "installs" all the more egregious given that EMAIL equals a soon-to-be-dead-interface-replaced-by-social-networking.

    Thank you Chris for bringing alternatives to this forum.

    The last to learn are invariably those that "teach".
    • Nothing is "Free"

      Here we go with the MS bashing. It gets so so old. You really can not see room for both as the author does at the end? You get what you pay for. I would suggest those with "no imagination" are the people who just want to push the on button.

      Google apps can and do serve a purpose, especially to rural schools and families with little or no budget, not to mention schools with an IT Dept. that consists of a parent who knows computers.....

      To suggest that making a profit is a "criminal reality" is really getting old. It's one reason I've quit reading the threads. Looks like nothing has changed. Drink your utopian kool-aid and go back to the commune.

      Peace Out
  • Teaching kids dependence on spyware

    Chris, you are so blinded by the price that you are willing to give up all privacy. Everything you do with Google is filtered by them, and stored by them. Years from now, when you, or one of the kids involved, is looking for a job and some ugly piece of this info comes out, you, or they, will strongly regret it.
    • Pot and Kettle?

      And what illusion are you living with? Since
      when has the public Internet been associated
      with privacy? As soon as you log on, kiss it
      good-bye, man. It used to be that Microsoft and
      Big Brother were [i]tight[/i]. (So the story
      goes.) What has changed? Microsoft isn't
      collecting data on its Live@Edu customers? Ha!
      If you're going to "give up your privacy", why
      pay to do it? The bottom line is, if you have
      something to hide, don't do it online.
      Adam S
  • RE: Google Edu Apps vs. Live@Edu: number nonsense

    Thank you for making my point. I work at "private" educational institution: Get the "profit" thingy sport. And sorry, I'm not going to weep for M$ and their need to make a buck. I actually use and like a number of their products and firmly believe they are unfairly criticized on a number fronts. The point is that there is a large echo system of products being blindly accepted as a necessity by public institutions that can be replaced by free (and good) alternatives. Most lack the will or courage to even consider some of those choices; much easier to follow the pack and hand over the cash (must be good me have to pay man for magic box, me like magic box).

    Given the "commune" jibe and "peace out" need to call your MS rep and line up your next upgrade of Word. Just exactly "what" are you teaching your kids? Or do you teach in Oceania?

    • While your right...

      I think many more than you'd expect try those
      "free" alternatives and find them lacking. I
      use a lot of freeware, but let me tell you, as
      soon as I got my hands on a copy of photoshop I
      dumped gimp for everything but specialized
      utils. (also gimp does the random brush image
      thing which can come in real handy and I'm
      fairly certain photoshop doesn't do, but god
      forbid you try and make your own!)

      I use openoffice, but honestly for most of the
      typing I do notepad is enough.

      I use linux, when I loan out my computer and
      don't want them downloading virus's (or
      "accidently" running into my porn collection,
      yes I could use a guest account, but often
      applications have a "recent" listing, that can
      be embarrassing real quick "no mom I did not
      watch a video called horse &#&*( in the
      #&*@(.divx what are you talking about?")
  • "Kool-Aid?s tasty no matter what the flavor." God that is soo quotable! (nt