Microsoft Tradeshow BannerTwo recent announcements have ratcheted up the rivalry between Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc.–and both could have significant implications for schools.

Just days after Google announced plans to challenge the dominance of Microsoft’s Windows operating system with a free operating system of its own, intended for netbooks, Microsoft revealed that it will give users free access to a web-based version of its Office suite as it seeks to catch up with Google in online applications.

Google aims for easier, more reliable computer operation

In announcing its new operating system, Google fired a salvo at Microsoft by referencing commonly heard complaints about Windows.

“We hear a lot from our users, and their message is clear–computers need to get better,” read a July 7 post on Google’s official blog.

“People want to get their eMail instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them,” wrote Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director.

“They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates.”

The new operating system will be based on Google’s 9-month-old web browser, Chrome. It is intended for use on netbooks, the smaller, cheaper, and scaled-down laptops that have become increasingly popular among both schools and consumers.

If Google delivers on its promise, the system could prove popular for schools. Quicker operating speeds, easier data access, and simpler setup and maintenance would be attractive to students and educators alike.

Persistent computer problems, such as an update that slows down performance speed or a browser that takes precious seconds to load once a computer is turned on, are counterproductive to using computers in the classroom, because instructional time is limited.

“We applaud Google’s move here,” said a spokeswoman for Intel, the company behind the Classmate PC–one of the first netbooks to appear on the market. Intel often works with Google on a variety of projects, including this one, she said. The company did not have any further comment.


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