Technology giants Google and Microsoft are competing to supply free online services for higher education, reports the Washington Post. Last week, Google announced 13 new U.S. institutions had signed up for the free, and ad-free, cloud-based computing services, ranging from the Collin County Community College District, in Plano, Texas, to giants such as Kent State and Indiana University.
That brings the total number of Googlized institutions worldwide to about 2,000 since the Google Apps Education Edition program was announced almost two years ago. Google isn’t alone courting both IT departments and, especially, students: Microsoft’s presence, with its Microsoft Live online services, makes the courtship a battlefield. Outfitting students with Windows laptops is no longer enough to ensure their loyalty. To meet and hold a new generation that’s living on the web, both companies are turning to a new generation of web applications. Microsoft just released a new Flash-based front end to Live. The web is less about the individual and more about a personal experience of participating in a group for work and play, says Jeff Keltner, business development manager for Google Apps Education Edition. "There is a personal experience, but it moves away from [being centered on] the one machine," Keltner says. "All I need today is an internet connection and a web browser."

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