"We're particularly excited to bring the best of the Web to education customers large and small," said Scott McMullan, Google Apps partner lead for the company's enterprise group, in a phone interview.
McMullan says the education-oriented apps offer the same basic value proposition as the company's business-oriented apps. The difference, he says, is that schools don't typically have access to the latest software.
In part, this is a reflection of the onerous nature of IT administration at schools, which have all of the problems that businesses have in maintaining larger numbers of computers, but often with fewer resources.
With the Google Apps Marketplace, which opened last March for business customers, school administrators will be able to make education, collaboration, and productivity applications available with only a few clicks. This is a markedly more efficient process than toting installation discs around to every computer.
The education category includes 20 applications from 19 vendors, with more on the way. The apps include learning management systems, student and teacher aids, and content creation tools. The apps are designed to integrate with Google Apps for Education and many include deep synchronization capabilities that work with Google Docs and Calendar.
Google sees the education market as an important part of its long-term strategy, both in terms of winning converts to cloud computing and in terms of seeding demand for its nascent browser-based operating system, Chrome OS. The limitations of Chrome OS -- lack of access to the file system, for example -- and its benefits -- centralized administration and automatic updates, for example -- make the browser-based operating system particularly well-suited for environments like businesses and schools where constrained computing is appropriate.
Google counts thousands of educational institutions with over 10 million students and faculty as users of Google Apps for Education.
Google's cloud evangelism has produced results in states like New York, which in October approved Google Apps for Education as an option in New York public and private schools.
Because cloud-based applications typically come at a lower cost than on-premises solutions, Google's primary challenge has been convincing schools that it can deliver the required privacy and security. Such concerns were more significant a few years ago, but have diminished as more and more businesses and organizations have embraced the cloud-based model without any notable disasters.