Microsoft is backing a bill in Massachusetts that would effectively force schools to stop using Google Apps, or any other service that uses students' data.
"Any person who provides a cloud computing service to an educational institution operating within the State shall process data of a student enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade for the sole purpose of providing the cloud computing service to the educational institution and shall not process such data for any commercial purpose, including but not limited to advertising purposes that benefit the cloud computing service provider," the bill states.
The proposed legislation was introduced by state representative Carlo Basile (D-East Boston), and Microsoft has said it is supporting it, using the old canard of wanting to protect children from harm. Blocking Google and other providers that use an ad-funded service model is just a side benefit, it seems.
"Schools must ensure that they place appropriate limits on data collection and use best practices for cloud service providers," Cameron Evans, chief technology officer of US education at Microsoft in a blog post on Wednesday. "Protecting the privacy of our students is common sense and shouldn't be sold to the highest bidder. Student privacy should not be for sale. Period."
You can understand Microsoft's concern. It was an unnamed Jesuit* who coined the phrase "Give me the child for seven years and I will give you the man" (which is a tad unfortunate given the revealed predilections of some modern men of the cloth), but the same holds true in the software industry. Children are more likely to use software they are familiar with, and Google's education play is worrying many at Redmond.
It's not just the education field, either. Google's progress in providing web applications for business and government is also cutting into Microsoft's bottom line. In the latter case, Google ended up going to court after the Department of the Interior forgot to mention that it would only consider Microsoft cloud applications. Mountain View won the 90,000-seat contract, at a price considerably less than Microsoft was charging.
Productivity web-app sales are still smaller than the sales of boxed software, but that won't last forever. The US government has said it wants to shift the bulk of its IT spending from boxed code to cloud applications, and many businesses and organizations are following suit.
In the opinion of this hack, Microsoft's Office 365 compares well to – and in some cases beats – Google's own Apps product. Redmond should sell on its strengths, not try and lock out competition by supporting such moves as this Massachusetts law. ®