This is some early thinking on the cloud-based strategies at play today, especially with regards to the education market.
Mr. John Gruber writes in It’s All Software about the differing views of cloud computing from the viewpoint of Apple vs. Google. It might be unfair, but he makes no mention of another company who has been talking about cloud-based computing for years.
He writes, emphasis mine:
I’m biased, insofar as I consider Apple’s strategy more appealing than Google’s. But that’s because my interest lies in having the best possible user experience — the best-looking UIs, the lowest-latency responses, the smoothest animation, the most elegant designs. I share that interest with Apple. Google’s interest is in reaching the largest possible audience.
From the point of view of an educational institution, which is best?
I make no apologies for loving Apple products and services–I’m a Mac owner, iPhone carrier, and iPad hipster. Okay, I jest, I’m no hipster.
But Apple’s had sad offerings in cloud-based and social-minded services. When I buy an album on iTunes through their store, I have no interest in telling my friends about the purchase. The begging of Ping to let me share borders on pathetic. Their iDisk was forward-thinking at the time, but their WebDAV enabled service was, and has remained, slow, compared to that of today’s popular Dropbox.
So, several years ago I migrated my e-mail from a .Mac service with Apple to Gmail with Google. I stopped paying Apple to sync my bookmarks. MobileMe works for some folks, I think there’s a flaw with Apple’s approach even with iCloud for schools. But we must remember iCloud isn’t Google Apps.
There is overlap in the services offered through Apple’s just recently announced iCloud. And for consumers with iPads, iPhones, and iPods, this is a great thing. Gruber’s right, the emphasis is on a great user experience. Apple sucks away the geekiness and leaves behind magic. Take a photo with your iPhone, and it’s on your iPad. It’s on your Mac. Even your PC’s photo collection. Magic.
But I think the model presented by Google, where “cloud” is represented with what’s in a browser window, makes more sense for education.
- Everything is tied to one account.
- Right now that account is free and doesn’t cost the school or the individual a thing.
- The sharing and collaboration options Google has offered in Docs & Spreadsheets is unparalleled currently.
- Google shows commitment to education through it’s training programs for teachers, administrators, and certification.
- Look at the “Chromebook.” Everything’s in the cloud – the mail, the docs, the sites, the applications are delivered remotely.
But it’s not so simple, either. I think Apple makes superior applications for media creation which are critical tools today in education. There’s no analog to “iLife” in the cloud. There’s nothing like iPad’s GarageBand, or precise productivity tools like Photoshop in the so-called cloud.
The bottom line is that the “web” as we know it today is not the same as the application frameworks on Windows, Mac, or our new mobile platforms. Both platforms have potential to do innovative things still, even some of the same innovative things (Gruber points out that SubEthaEdit is a collaborative tool, which is true, and existed long before GoogleApps).
But I think Google as a “platform” has more appeal – even though the “applications” offered via the Web are simpler, mostly focused on productivity (writing, calculating, and drawing, etc.). They work on the open platform of the Web… meaning a Google Doc on a Windows 7 machine is the same as one on my Mac laptop, or even the Google Chrome notebook. This large audience is what can work across organizations, especially when the tools are offered at an affordable price. We supply the hardware, Google provides the software. And installation is practically non-existent. Everyone gets the same cache of apps and access.
If Apple wants a place at the table in education, at least when it comes to cloud-based computing, then either they or their partners need to consider the competition with Google in their long-term strategy. That is, of course, until Google offers 3rd party apps through the cloud for fees and the process becomes more cumbersome.