BY NATHAN RANNS
For the Daily
Published October 7, 2010
Google representatives led a demonstration last night to try to entice a crowd of nearly 70 University students and faculty to “Go Google.”
The University’s Unit IT Steering Committee has plans to implement a new IT system in an effort to improve campus communication and Google and Microsoft are competing to win the votes of University computer users who will help decide which company will be chosen for the new system.
The five speakers from Google stressed the positive aspects of the version of the Google Product Suite that Google crafted specifically for the University.
During the event — which was held at the Biomedical Science Research Building — the Google representatives discussed the interactivity and integration that Google Product Suite, also referred to as the Google Apps system, would offer users.
According to Google Product Manager Ronald Ho, the program is similar to Google Documents, in which users have the ability to instantly generate spreadsheets and documents and view real-time feedback. Users will also be able to make and share websites and calendars.
“When it comes to Google, we’re all about doing real-time collaboration for bringing in data,” Ho said.
Lauren Miskelly, Google apps EDU sales manager, said real-time collaboration is one factor that makes the Google Apps System “the best tool for students, faculty and staff.”
“There are lots of ways to allow people to engage and interact in real-time,” Miskelly said. “We allow you to share dynamic content, and we allow you to do all of this in a very secure and private manner.”
According to Miskelly, 9 million students and faculty at universities, colleges and K-12 schools throughout the country use the Google system. She said educational institutions like the absence of advertising and the option to use school-specific e-mail domains.
Google Solutions Engineer Chris Walsh said the security features in the program also make it attractive to potential users.
“We have hundreds of thousands of identical servers that we’ve built and developed,” Walsh said. “And then we put our own (operating system) on there. And what this means is that with these homogenous systems, we can easily update and secure these from the bad stuff from the rest of the Internet.”
Google utilizes security measures like an encryption process that makes it impossible for anyone to take user data from Google and view it. Users can also log on from a second computer to end a session not terminated on a previously used computer.
At the event, the Google representatives assured audience members that user data belongs to the user and that Google only scans data to benefit the user experience. This is done through an automated system, not through human efforts, Walsh said.
The Google Products Suite also includes features to make e-mail more user-friendly like “Got the Wrong Bob?” — which alerts users when they may be sending an e-mail to the wrong person — and “Don’t Forget Bob!” — which lets users know if they are forgetting an e-mail recipient who they frequently e-mail.
University students who attended the presentation said they were fairly impressed by the system and drew comparisons between the features presented by Google and those highlighted at a similar event held last week by Microsoft.
LSA junior Marco Mora, who attended last night’s event and the one sponsored by Microsoft, said he liked Google’s collaborative features.
“Microsoft didn’t really show the collaboration,” Mora said. “I believe (Microsoft) can have more than two people collaborate, but they never went into that. I’m a little skeptical (about Microsoft). I think Google really outdid themselves.”
LSA senior Jingran Wang said he thought Google’s system was easier to navigate and had a better layout design, but he considered the competition a toss-up.
“It pretty much comes down to implementation — how much we can Michiganize both of their offerings,” Wang said.
Miskelly said Google made an immense effort to customize its product to cater to the University.
“We set out to come here and really understand the experience at Michigan, and we set out to make our presentation as applicable to that audience as possible,” Miskelly said in an interview after the presentation. “There are thousands of universities, community colleges and schools using our products everyday, and we’d love to add the University of Michigan to that list.”