Google pushes ed­u­ca­tion soft­ware to schools

The Pak Banker - - Company& -

NEW YORK: Google Inc. is talk­ing with ed­u­ca­tional-soft­ware com­pa­nies to help build a mar­ket­place for on­line learn­ing pro­grams, an in­dus­try whose value may ap­proach $5 bil­lion this year.

Games and in­struc­tional tools for teach­ers from com­pa­nies such as Grockit Inc. and Aviary Inc. are al­ready of­fered in the Google Apps Mar­ket­place, an on­line store that opened in March. Google, the world's largest search en­gine, seeks to lure more ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ers and is step­ping up ef­forts to gen­er­ate rev­enue from the project, com­pany ex­ec­u­tives say.

Soft­ware sales for U.S. schools and col­leges this year should sur­pass the 2009 to­tal of $4.6 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Parthenon Group LLC. That could pro­vide a new growth stream for Google, which gets most of its sales from search ad­ver­tis­ing.

The com­pany works with schools, pro­vid­ing free word pro­cess­ing, e-mail and spread­sheet pro­grams to stu­dents and teach­ers. Now it wants to help out­side de­vel­op­ers sell ap­pli­ca­tions to ed­u­ca­tors.

"If we can pro­vide ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion apps to our 10 mil­lion users in thou­sands of schools, then that would be a win all around," said Oba­diah Green­berg, Google's busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager for ed­u­ca­tion.

Most soft­ware mak­ers with prod­ucts on Google Apps Mar­ket­place now col­lect all rev­enue from sales gen­er­ated through the site. In the com­ing months, Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia-based Google plans to be­gin tak­ing a 20 per­cent share of sales, Green­berg said.

Pro­grams in the Apps Mar­ket­place can be op­er­ated in­side the pri­vate Web do­mains many schools have set up with Google, said James Birchfield, in­struc­tional technology spe­cial­ist at Har­wich Pub­lic Schools in Mas­sachusetts.

"A teacher logs into a Google Apps ac­count and they can ac­cess any­thing in the mar­ket­place," said Birchfield, who is known by col­leagues as the "Google guru." "It gives you a one-stop-shop kind of thing where we know we can in­te­grate it and we know where it's all saved."

Aviary Ed­u­ca­tion, one of the first ed­u­ca­tion apps of­fered on the site, is a free Web-based tool that lets stu­dents edit im­ages and au­dio record­ings in a pri­vate en­vi­ron­ment that can be mon­i­tored by a teacher. It's of­ten used by teach­ers who want stu­dents to record class pre­sen­ta­tions and share them on­line, said Michael Galpert, co-founder of New York-based Aviary.

"The more that they pro­mote Google ser­vices in the class­room, the larger the au­di­ence we get," Galpert said. The com­pany now gets most of its new cus­tomers through Google's Mar­ket­place, he said.

Us­ing Aviary's soft­ware, sev­enth graders at Har­wich Mid­dle School cre­ated pre­sen­ta­tions on women's is­sues in the Mid­dle East, pair­ing im­ages with nar­ra­tions and sound ef­fects. Google made the soft­ware eas­ier to find and eas­ier to pro­tect stu­dents' work, said Birchfield. "That was a big deal for us."

In its first nine months, most cus­tomers of the Google Apps Mar­ket­place have been technology ad­min­is­tra­tors at small and medium-sized busi­nesses, who use it to find tools such as col­lab­o­ra­tion soft­ware made by Box.net and At­las­sian. Google's Green­berg wants to get school lead­ers to rely on the mar­ket­place to sign up and buy Web-based learn­ing soft­ware.

He also says stu­dents with ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing free Google apps in school may be more likely to be­come pay­ing users when they join the work­force.

An­a­lysts es­ti­mate Google will re­port sales of $21.7 bil- lion this year, based on the av­er­age of pro­jec­tions com­piled by Bloomberg. More than a po­ten­tial new source of rev­enue, the com­pany's push into ed­u­ca­tion could help it build its brand recog­ni­tion among the next gen­er­a­tion of In­ter­net users, said San­deep Aggarwal, an an­a­lyst at Caris & Co. in San Fran­cisco.

Pro­vid­ing "more apps for the ed­u­ca­tion ver­ti­cal helps them to ba­si­cally ac­quire a cus­tomer for their whole port­fo­lio of prod­ucts early on," Aggarwal said. Ap­ple Inc. and Mi­crosoft Corp. have of­fered dis­counted prices to schools for 25 years in ef­forts to "own a new com­puter user" from the get-go, he said.

Google's on­line store for ed­u­ca­tion apps could soon face com­pe­ti­tion from Ap­ple, which has said it will open a ver­sion of its pop­u­lar App Store for Mac com­put­ers on Jan. 6.

Ap­ple al­ready has ties to ed­u­ca­tional-soft­ware mak­ers. Ac­cord­ing to data tracker 148Apps.biz, ed­u­ca­tion apps are the fourth-most-rep­re­sented cat­e­gory in Ap­ple's App Store, with 24,727 pro­grams, be­hind apps for books, games and other en­ter­tain­ment.

Ap­ple has a tra­di­tion of serv­ing ed­u­ca­tors," said Margery Mayer, pres­i­dent of the ed­u­ca­tion di­vi­sion of chil­dren's book pub­lisher Scholas­tic Inc. With one out of six Amer­i­cans go­ing to school ev­ery day, "it makes sense that if you are a technology com­pany you would be in­ter­ested in a mar­ket that is serv­ing such a large part of the pop­u­la­tion."

Mak­ers of en­ter­prise soft­ware have had some early suc­cess with the Google Apps Mar­ket­place. Vis­i­tors to At­las­sian's site are 15 per­cent more likely to be­come pay­ing cus­tomers if they were di­rected there by the Google store, said Daniel Free­man, di­rec­tor of prod­uct mar­ket­ing at the Syd­ney-based com­pany.

Box.net ex­pects 2010 sales of more than $100,000 from new cus­tomers that came from the Google Apps Mar­ket­place, ac­cord­ing to Aaron Le­vie, Box.net's CEO in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia.

"That's a pretty good in­di­ca­tion that there is some in­ter­est in the mar­ket­place," Le­vie said. "That can grow to be­come more sig­nif­i­cant over time." Google is plot­ting to­ward a fu­ture where it's the bro­ker of all new technology adopted by a school, said Sal­man Khan, the founder of the non­profit ed­u­ca­tional video se­ries Khan Academy. His or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­ceived some fund­ing from Google. -Bloomberg

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