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Google Gets Green Light In Maryland Schools

More and more educational institutions are willing to consider Google Apps.
Google on Friday added a fourth state to its growing list of potential education customers.

The Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC) has signed an agreement with Google to make Google Apps for Education available to the 1.4 million students in the state.

The deal underscores the growing appeal of cloud-based solutions at a time when public sector budgets are under growing pressure.

In June, Colorado and Iowa agreed to make Google Apps available to over 3,000 schools in the two states. And in April, Oregon decided to allow its school districts to deploy Google Apps.

The deal only establishes Google Apps for Education and Postini e-mail services as an option for MEEC member institutions; it does not guarantee school administrators will choose to deploy Google Apps.

The MEEC also has agreements with Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, McAfee, Symantec and other IT organizations.

Google says that over 8 million students, faculty and staff are using Google Apps.

Following a rewrite of the editing engines of Google Docs and Spreadsheets earlier this year to compete more effectively against Office 2010 and the launch last month of Google Apps for Government, Google has accelerated its pursuit of large academic, enterprise, and government customers.

In contrast to its past coyness about competing with Microsoft, Google has taken to highlighting custom wins that have come at Microsoft's expense.

A note from Kyle Swafford, director of IT services for electrical contractor Bergelectric, for example, makes it clear that his company chose Google's cloud offerings over Microsoft's.

"Initially we found Microsoft BPOS-S an attractive option, but as we delved deeper into the contract and piloted a production environment deployment we found the BPOS-S solution came up short -- even with the significant concessions Microsoft made in order to be competitive with Google," he wrote in a Google blog post last week.

Microsoft's marketing message has been just the opposite.

In a Microsoft blog post last month, Mike Blake, CIO for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said his company chose Microsoft over Google and IBM.

"We ultimately decided to go with Microsoft because of their proven track-record and commitment to the productivity category," he wrote. "We also expect to save upwards of 30% over our previous solution, [Lotus Notes]."

It's not quite Thunderdome -- two companies enter, one company leaves -- but that's the way it sounds in these clashing narratives.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer