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.
It is obvious that Apple has not been catering to Higher Education with their shift to the new iPad consumer line. And it is also clear that Microsoft must try to hold on to the markets they still control; Business and Government, hence, not a lot of concern for Higher Ed. Of course we have always known that there is no money in Higher Ed, but we always had influence. What is now apparent is that Higher Education has lost its influence. The influence born from the student computing experience that would shape their technology buying habits as they moved into the work force. Why exactly has this happened and what might the long term effect be?
There is no business, marketing or economic reason for this change. I think the change is driven the fact that students no longer consider the computer an advantage. Early on it was critical for the tech industry to gain academic influence. School was the first exposure to the wonders and power of computing. Apple chose to control K-12 which may now be an influence fueling their success. Microsoft chose to control business which required influence from Higher Education, valid reason for their current control of the MS Office, now SharePoint, dependent business world. Some tried to gain influence solely by hardware opportunity such as IBM and Sun, unfortunately their strategy had no way to maintain contact after graduation.
So is it that the student no longer considers the computer as an advantage or is it that they no longer consider the computer cool. Either way it translates to a vanishing concern by the main tech companies. The computer does not really have that much influence on learning. Trying to tie it to the optimal path to the Internet isn’t really about enhanced learning, that is about access to information which may assist learning. So what does this next period have in store for Higher Education? If Higher Ed has no influence then are we just consumers. Yes, we are just consumers of devices, however, Higher Ed does influence the flow of information. And that is why Google cares the most about us now.
Apple considering using Microsoft’s Bing search engine as the default for the iPhone is a fairly straightforward business move. Apple cannot overlook the importance of mobile advertising, which is a main business process of their new Smartphone competitor Google. The actual mechanics for how the iPhone would use Bing for advertising kickbacks will be interesting.
Most of the discussion on this switch has to do with the unfortunate parting of ways for Apple and Google who have carried the flag of innovation in recent years. But I think we are also seeing a transition of players. Microsoft is still a very powerful market share asset that both Apple and Google can find valuable partnering opportunities. I think Microsoft is starting to realize the importance of these new stars. It will be very interesting to watch Microsoft court new business partnerships with Apple and Google. It may mean that Microsoft gives up on any hope for being a player in the mobile market, but it could ensure their continuing success in the laptop and desktop market.