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War in the classroom!

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Started by Gerard Macmanus 23 Oct 2013 9:13pm () Replies (2)


There is a software war in the classroom! Google Apps, Microsoft and their office suite free and now Mac OS free! Is this good for us?

Google, Apple, Microsoft At War In Hooking Children On Their Software

The big news of the day was Apple's product announcements. Beyond the exciting hardware envy, was the announcement that Apple’s Office Productivity application, iWork, is now free with any purchase of a Mac or iOS product. This move comes at an interesting time in the office productivity space with the triumvirate of GoogleMicrosoft and Apple locked in an arms race for the hearts and minds of customers.

My eldest son starts high school next year and the school he’ll be attending requires that all students have a laptop or tablet device. With that comes son #1′s first foray into the world of office suites and what will likely be a decision that has ongoing ramifications for many years to come. I’m very much a Google Apps guy – while I use PowerPoint and Word a little for specific use cases (PowerPoint because Google presentation frankly sucks and word for tracked changes and editing of collaboratively created documents) the vast majority of my time is spent in the Google Apps world. I’d always assumed that my kids would follow suit – Google Apps is completely cloud-centric and I’ve always felt that this perspective is more realistic than the Microsoft approach of desktop software that is cloud-enabled as an afterthought. Add to that the fact that Office is a paid product while Google Apps is available for free, and the decision becomes even clearer.

Or at least it did. Until Microsoft announced that as of 1 December 2013, any institution worldwide that licenses Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for staff and faculty can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost. What that means is that over 35000 educational institutions globally can offer their students free licenses for MS Office to be installed on up to five devices. That made me look again and I had an email conversation with the Director of ICT at my son’s school, Sam McNeill. (As an aside, McNeill has an interesting blog looking at eLearning in action – worth a read for those interested in the topic). I put it to McNeill that Google’s Apps approach is more relevant for the modern world, he had an interesting perspective on that saying that:

Whilst Google has more market time and experience with Google Apps and it’s certainly an “easier” product to use, MS’ SkyDrive is arguably more feature rich in terms of roundtripping a document from desktop Office, to the cloud for sharing/editing, and then back to the desktop… For once, being slower to market, has allowed MS to release a feature-rich product.

Functionality aside, it’s fascinating to see Microsoft react to the very real threat that Google introduces in the Office Productivity space by hooking customers at the very start of their relationship with a productivity suite. The reality is that once an individual has gone through high school extensively using a productivity suite, the particular suite they use becomes very sticky. Microsoft have the ability to hook the next generation of technology users and all for the cost of a few foregone software licenses.

Underlying these machinations in the productivity space is the very real fact that these three companies are all trying to hook people into a technology platform covering all their needs – they obviously have different entry and monetization models for their platforms, but to a greater or lesser extent they’re in a race to trap people within their own flavor of walled garden. What better way to do so than to hook the next generation of users in at the start of their technology use. These vendors are all falling over themselves buying market share in future consumers – and all of them have the ability to play the long game here, investing at the start point for a long term monetization opportunity.

This fight is only going to get nastier as time progresses – ultimately the consumers benefit from the cut throat nature of the competition and you can bet that we’ll see much more activity from all three trying to hook school and students into their ecosystem.


  • Tim Kong (View all users posts) 23 Oct 2013 10:15pm ()

    This could be a good thing.

    The sooner we in education come to grips with the fact that the marketing hype around these tools is just that; marketing, for the benefit of the people selling the product and get on with using them (or not using them) to do the teaching and learning that's outlined in the NZC, the better.

    Be OK with using the tools you use. Be aware of the implications, for parents, for staff, for students. Be transparent about those implications and ramifications. Stop chasing the latest iteration of the tool.

    IMO, the ability to "unleash learner potential" isn't bound up in the tool or the sellers of the tool, but in the ones who wield the tool, who teach the tool, who recognise, that they're just tools.

    The NZC doesn't stipulate that we teach Google-fu, Microsoft mana, or Apple-awe.

    Its vision is for young people who are:

    Literate and numerate
    Critical and creative thinkers
    Active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge
    Informed decision makers

    I'd say it's a coming "battle", but we need to keep our eyes on the actual war that matters.


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