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Hey Microsoft – Google gets that FREE means FREE

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Schools Are Ready to Move to Cloud Computing

Many schools are at a point where they are ready and willing to make the move to cloud computing.  When it comes to choosing the best cloud-based productivity solution, the answer is not a simple one.

There are two main options: Microsoft or Google.  Microsoft has recently revamped and revamped its Live@Edu solution.  Now rebranded Office 365 for Education, at first glance, it may seem like the obvious choice for schools.  Most schools have been using some version of Microsoft’s popular Office Suite.  The move to the cloud-based version of these products may seem logical.

As is often the case with Microsoft, there is a catch.  Free is never really free.  There are various options, that most schools will want and/or need that will come at a cost to districts.  For schools to truly utilize all of the features that Microsoft has to offer, they will need to maintain multiple servers in-house.  At a demonstration of Office365 recently, the representative identified a need for at least four servers.  Providing, supporting and maintaining multiple in-house servers is exactly what most school districts are trying to avoid by going to a cloud solution.

To be fair, a district could in fact use Office 365 for Education exclusively via the web and would incur no charges and require no in-house servers.  In doing so, schools will be giving up significant  functionality.

Microsoft’s Bait and Switch

Most importantly, is the point that Stuart Ridout makes in his blog post Can You Afford Office356 for Education?, about Microsoft once again pulling a “bait and switch” on schools.  Hey Microsoft – free should mean free!  Schools all over the world are challenged to stretch diminishing  technology budgets while increasing the resources they are providing to students and faculty members.

Google Gets Education

Google Apps for Education is truly a free suite of applications that schools do not have to pay anything for and do not need to host any servers in-house, in order to fully utilize this suite of cloud-based computing productivity tools.  Google gets it.  Free means free.

When comparing Office365 and Google Apps often it is stated that Google’s productivity applications are not nearly as sophisticated  as Microsoft’s products.  This is accurate.  The reality is  that Google Apps provide all of the functionality that most users actually need and/or use.  The next argument made is that Google Docs (in particular) mess up the formatting of Word documents, which does happen.  If the documents are created using Google Docs in the first place, there are no formatting issues.

While Microsoft does offer the ability to collaborate on documents, etc., it is not done directly within the application.  Instead, users need to add Sharepoint into the mix, in order to collaborate.  This solution requires a one collaborator to “check out” a document in order to make changes.  No other users can access (let alone change) the document while it is checked out.

Google on the other hand, offers real-time collaboration within the application.  You can actually see on your screen when other collaborators are working on the same document as you .

Game Changer

The real game changer may be the latest announcements from Google that its new Google Drive Cloud Storage solution and its popular Chrome browser are now both available for IOS devices.  As schools rapidly move to include iPad‘s in the arsenal of tech resources, the ability to effortlessly access documents from various location may really push Google out in front of Microsoft.  Yes, Microsoft files can be accessed on various devices, it is not as seamless as the Google solution.

From its inception, Google Apps for Education has been a feature packed solution.  The functionality continues to expand, with no signs of a price tag for schools.

 

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Ketchup Got Me Thinking About Technology

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

So here is how my bizarre mind works…

I am in Saratoga Springs, New York right now, about to attend a session with Alan November.

The hotel clerk recommended a local restaurant for breakfast.  After ordering my breakfast, the waitress brought over a bottle of ketchup.  Not so extraordinary except for the fact that it was not my preferred brand of ketchup.  Instead of my usual Heinz, she instead placed a bottle of Red Gold Tomato Ketchup on the table.  Up until that moment I never really considered how strongly I felt about brands, but I should have.  As I think about it, I am very particular about all sorts of brands in my daily life, from food to clothes, etc.  Oddly, it made me examine my strong brand loyalty for the technology products I favor.

For years I was a huge fan of Dell computers.  I had been instrumental in placing literally thousands of these PCs in the various schools I was involved for a period of 10 years or so.  I recommended them to everyone.  My family members all had Dell’s as well.  They were (and likely still are) terrific machines.  They were the only machines I would even consider when purchasing or recommending PCs.

Then I found Apple.  More accurately, Apple found me.  I got hooked very quickly.  I am now an Apple evangelist.  Not because they are cool and sexy (though it helps), but because they work.  Upon doing a lot of research, it became clear to me that the TCO (total cost of ownership) of an Apple is actually far less than that of comparable Windows-based PCs.

I have also been swayed in my printing choices.  Once a huge fan of HP printers (still think they work great), I have moved on to OKI printers.  Oki makes great, reliable printers too.  But what I like most about OKI’s are their low cost for consumables like toner.  Over the life of a printer, the TCO of an OKI is far lee than HP or other manufacturers.

The point of all of this is that if I am honest with myself I will realize that often when I break away from my tried and true brands, I find very good, if not better, alternatives.

Maybe the next time the waitress brings me an unfamiliar brand of ketchup, I should actually try it.

Office for Mac 2011 is almost ready for prime time

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Apple Insider is reporting that Office for Mac 2011 is almost ready for prime time.  This long awaited update to the Microsoft suite of applications is to include Outlook for Mac, for the first time.

Microsoft announced Friday that Office for Mac 2011 is now classified as “Release to Manufacturing.” The software should be on track for release by the end of October as previously announced.

The Mac Business Unit team at Microsoft published a celebratory post on their blog Friday announcing that they had “signed off on final testing” and sent the product to production. This latest release was two and a half years in the making, with team members in Redmond, Silicon Valley, Beijing, Dublin Tokyo.

Office for Mac 2011 should be Microsoft’s “best release yet,” according to Product Unit Manager Geoff Price, who authored the post.

Key features added include Outlook for Mac, co-authoring, ribbons, cloud-based storage, in-document photo editing.

Macworld reported earlier that online retailer Amazon.com had an Oct. 26 availability date listed on its website, but the release date has since been removed. Microsoft had announced in August that the product would ship by the end of October.

Customers who purchase Office 2008 for Mac between Aug. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2010 are eligible for a free upgrade. All other users will have to purchase the standalone versions. Prices start at $119 for the Home and Student version, which lacks Outlook, and $199 for the Home and Business version. An Academic version will also be offered to qualifying students and educators for $99.

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