Where is SaaS (software as a service) heading next? Go visit a local college campus -- where more and more universities and education centers are embracing Google Apps. The latest example involves the University of Southern Mississippi. For MSPs that are still studying the SaaS game, Google's moves in the education market are worth noting. Here's why.

The latest news: At Southern Miss, the university and Google are...
"collaborating to adopt Google Apps for Education, which includes Gmail to manage student e-mail accounts, Google Calendar and Google Talk.  The new system brings many benefits to Southern Miss students, including indexed e-mail search, enhanced spam filtering, calendaring, tagging capabilities for tracking e-mails, and 7.5 gigabytes of storage per student."
Also of note: Keep a close eye on how Google integrates Google Talk with Google Android, the search engine giant's smart phone operating system.

Head of the Class?

Additional details about the Southern Miss-Google relationship are hard to come by. MSPmentor is yet to confirm how many seats/students the Google project will involve. Still, there are signs across the higher education market that Google Apps has gained critical mass.

Examples include:

Three Reasons to Watch Closely

For MSPs, there are three reasons to track Google's growing momentum across college campuses.
  • First, there's a chance Google will make additional vertical market pushes in 2010 and beyond. Google insiders have downplayed the vertical market chatter to me. But I'm watching and listening for more clues.
  • Second, tomorrow's workforce -- today's college students -- will demand Google Apps and/or similar SaaS applications when they show up at your door for work.
  • Third, those Google-savvy college grads will also work for your customers.
In my mind there's no doubt a Google Enterprise push is coming in 2010. The company's GoogleAtWork Twitter feed and Gone Google tagline are clear signs of things to come.

MSPs appear to be catching on. Nearly 22 percent of MSPs are running Google Apps and/or offering Google Apps to their customers, according to our third-annual MSPmentor 100 survey (complete results will be published in Q1 2010). And Google spent much of 2009 attending MSP-oriented conferences in order to raise its voice and visibility in the managed services market.

Of course, Google doesn't have a lock on the SaaS productivity market. Remember, Microsoft is preparing Office Web -- a SaaS version of Office 2010. Zoho seems to be catching on in business settings. And upstarts like HyperOffice want a piece of the action, too.