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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is driving a big push into the educational software market, where Microsoft Office currently reigns supreme. The states of Oregon, Iowa, and Colorado have all signed up for Google Apps for Education, giving teachers and students access to a range of centralized tools such as Gmail, Calendar, Groups, and Video.
That's quite a bit more than moving single school districts onto the Google platform, and there's support for the change in high places. Colorado governor Bill Ritter gushed about the move in Google's release: "By leveraging the Internet, educators are able to bring new ways of learning to the classroom and connect with students in exciting and challenging ways."
What makes these statewide approvals of Google Apps even more intriguing is the fact that Google bent over backwards to make it happen.
Here's what happened: Google introduced an encrypted search service earlier this spring. Microsoft's Bing doesn't have that; neither does Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) Search nor IAC/InterActiveCorp's (Nasdaq: IACI ) Ask.com. If you want a secure connection for your web searches, Google would be it.
But the power to search without worrying about snooping eyes also let students search for adult content and other inappropriate material. It's a way to circumvent the filters installed in the school's networking infrastructure, so many schools and school districts wanted to block that service entirely. But that entailed blocking effectively all of Google, including those cost-effective and neatly centralized Google Apps tools.
So Google has moved its encrypted search results to a new Internet address, which means that system administrators can now block Google's encrypted search without losing the less nefarious software. And there was much rejoicing.
The encrypted search move on its own isn't particularly noteworthy, but the way several states then immediately sang Google's praises is. Big G is listening to its prospective users and doing whatever needs to be done to get some signatures on the dotted line. Whether Google Apps is flat-out better than MS Office in any quantifiable way is beside the point; Google's aggressive tactics will eventually make a painful dent in Microsoft's ironclad Office monolith.
Would you like to see Google Apps in your school district, with or without encrypted search functions? Let me know in the comments below.