Just Talking About our Student Consumer Influence
I just wanted to offer a bit more clarification for what influence I believe is changing. That was the loss of influence directly related to the influence attributed to the consumers we produce, our students. Early on those students represented the most significant demographic that would influence technology purchasing. Back then they were the emerging work force being hired by companies that would consider investing in technology. College students were a privileged class that had access to computing, they were influential.
This has played out as I mentioned with Apple’s early focus on K-12 which has probably provided significant influence for the massive general consumer market of non-professionals that they are doing so well with right now. Apple’s success in Higher Ed in recent years is a fortunate by-product of their overall marketing strategy. But Apple is not targeting the iPad for Higher Ed meaning our students are not influential for the success of that product line.
Microsoft is slightly different in that they did aggressively pursue the college student initially and are now realizing the long term benefit. It was critical for Microsoft that our college students were given access to MS Office and that they carried that influence on to the business community. Today that influence is still coming from those old students, but not the new ones. Microsoft is trying to hold on to their most significant revenue stream in business and government with those same students now firmly entrenched in those companies. Microsoft’s focus is on their Business Productivity Online Suite, BPOS, based on SharePoint requiring MS Office. New students coming into these companies are not going to dislodge such a significant business suite infrastructure with products like iWorks or Google Apps. Making some of those features available to Live EDU is a by-product that Microsoft is forced to provide in response to Google.
This is not a negative against these companies, it is good business on their part. I’m just identifying this trend for what it is. There are other examples that relate to corporate philanthropy and influence that academic research may still hold, but my example is just about the changing student consumer influence that we in IT have been a part of.
Now we in IT leadership still need to consider how our influence may be beneficial to our institution. And one of the major influences today is that offered for managing our information. Google is the most interested in this influence because they want our consumers (students). Because today they are the most likely demographic to consider using this service after graduation and are most likely to influence their future professions. The real take away here is that Google is trying to influence the creation of a new market while Microsoft is trying to hold on to one.
By the way, we migrated our university email to gmail today for my IT department so that we could properly pilot it in preparation for moving all university email to Google at the end of the month. I am far more impressed then I anticipated. We have supported all Google Apps except email for a year now. What we now have by adding email is as fine a Unified Communications Solution as I could ever buy.