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Apr 19 2012

Question for My Readers

My university has contracted with Google for provisioning of Google Apps–including GMail–under the URLs and branding of our institution. It is also going to be completely free of any advertising, data mining, or any other use of user information by Google. According to what we have been told, this several-year contract does not involve payment of any fees by the university to Google.

The only thing I can think of that has this deal make sense for Google is that it will demand fees going forward when renewing the contract. Is there any other reason Google would provide these services to my university without charging fees, and without being able to serve ads or mine user data?

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Emu Sam

    Tax breaks for charitable contribution.

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    Customer familiarity with Google’s apps, perhaps. Or, they may mine general usage patterns, or have worked out a deal with a third party (such as the NSA) to do the data mining, so Google itself isn’t collecting user information.

    For what it’s worth, my university has a similar agreement with Hotmail providing university email accounts. Many students don’t realize they’re using Hotmail, from the amount of unofficial tech support I’ve had to provide.

  3. 3
    Suido

    Monash Uni in Australia has made this deal with Google. Not sure of the ramifications staff side, but it was convenient for me as a student.

  4. 4
    sithrazer

    Google gets a foot in the door, so to speak. A group/organization making one set of technological changes now will likely do so again in the future, maybe even the very near future, for other various services. Do good with the initial, free offering and you’re in good standing as the first person to get turned to for future endeavors.

    Emu’s point is a very valid possibility.

    There might even be a direct government program/subsidy for such services.

    Or there might be some under-the-table back scratching and kickbacks going around.

    Not to imply there’s shifty people doing nefarious deeds at your university with that last one, but without knowing more about the deal and the people involved it’s all wild speculation.

  5. 5
    pramod

    The other commenters have made excellent points but one thing I’d like to point out is that it also costs google next to nothing to do this. They have 350m million people using gmail so even if your institution adds a 100k to that count it won’t show up as a blip in their server logs.

  6. 6
    Pteryxx

    I wonder if Google’s planning to roll out and/or buy up one of the academic resource interfaces such as Blackboard.

  7. 7
    stevegerrard

    Google for College => Google for Life. (r >= 0.9?)

  8. 8
    skeptifem

    It seems wise for a company that relies heavily on university educated workers to do something like that.

  9. 9
    sailor1031

    It’s an updated version of IBM in the old days giving computers to Universities – it got students hooked on IBM apps, languages and software. A major reason why few US engineers ever knew ALGOL despite its being far superior to FORTRAN

  10. 10
    Lyle Artale

    Okay look, quit asking “Can i have this instead of that?” The diet works by jump starting your metabolism, If you try and replace something.. your changing the chemical breakdown of that item… and it’s going to NOT work for you.. So no, You cant have this instead of that etc etc..

  11. 11
    Clay

    I suspect a combination of the above. As several commenters have stated, there’s a strong benefit to building brand loyalty/familiarity with the users at the university. As pramod mentioned, there’s little or no marginal cost for Google to do so, since they’ve already developed the applications. I suspect they have retained rights to use the university’s name in marketing. “When [prominent research university] looked for an integrated solution to [x], they chose Google.” I’d bet they’ve extended the same offer to hundreds of other institutions.

    There is also a strong probability of upsales. They’ve given the university all the basics, which would strongly influence your IT department and infrastructure. That makes it easier to integrate some of the other services and products they haven’t and won’t give for free. It’s a strong sales pitch.

  12. 12
    DrugMonkey

    What the hell kind of low rent shitttasse University do you work for that can’t afford 2 dudes in the IT department?

  13. 13
    Woof

    sailor1031 said:

    it got students hooked on IBM apps, languages and software. A major reason why few US engineers ever knew ALGOL despite its being far superior to FORTRAN

    Give me Algol68 or give me death!

    Well, OK… the ’70s were a bit strange for me…

  14. 14
    TheGrinch

    My university (I am an academic staff) has its official mail app with google. People here still can use their old systems (ex, microsoft outlook, thunderbird, etc) to access their emails, but I use Google.

    Few points:

    1. It’s much much better than available options. Others may disagree.

    2. Almost all of the state-of-the art applications are developed by established software companies (for example, microsoft outlook) and need to be bought by the university at hefty prices. So why not go with a product that is a good quality?

    3. It probably costs Google next to nothing for offering this to the universities. And they get to have students hooked up on their product early on. So win-win for them, even if the returns are low in short-term.

  15. 15
    brianl

    They are mining. Even if they say they’re not, they are.
    @12 It’s not the two guys in the IT department. It’s the 35K per year license to Microsoft to run the system plus the cost of the equipment, maintenance, space to house the servers, etcetera etcetera ad infinitum. My school’s doing it for everybody next year for a simple reason: money.

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