Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Google Isn't Poised to Kill off Microsoft Just Yet

A lot has been made lately of this article that appears on lauding Google's coming of age as the de facto owner of cloud based collaboration and how that spells trouble for Microsoft's Office suite. We are left to ponder the question, "Will Google Docs kill off Microsoft Office?" While CNN might want you to believe that the answer is almost certainly a resounding yes, that's a bit shortsighted for a few reasons.

  1. The article states that there are 120 million accounts using Google Drive then goes on to explain that Microsoft sold 2 million Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions. The idea that users will choose either Microsoft Office or Google Docs is based on antiquated thinking. Savvy users don't feel the burden of being tied to a particular software package. I mean, how many of those 120 million Google Drive users do you think don't have any iteration of Office on their computers? Like 8?
  2. Individual users may not like Office, but their employers might like it lots. Microsoft released Web Apps in 2010 - 4 years after Google Docs - and, according to the article, 60% of Fortune 500 companies have gone with Microsoft Web Apps. Even with a four year head start and a better web UI, Google still cannot top Microsoft in the enterprise market. So, if your employer needs you to work on an Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas, you either grab a copy of Office or work on your resume in Google Docs.
  3. Free isn't necessarily free. Sure the Millennials may be used to getting all things digital without paying, but as the cloud matures, people are starting to understand the catch. Users, especially commercial users, take issue with signing away the rights to their original works for Google to use as it sees fit for it's own purposes. From the Google Drive TOS:
"When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones"
Yikes - no thank you. I'll keep my own stuff for $10/month thank you. Here is Microsoft's SkyDrive TOS (Skydrive is where Web Apps are stored):
"5. Your Content: Except for material that we license to you, we don't claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don't control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service."
In a nutshell, here's the deal. Google Docs is a great tool that will actually eat away at some of Microsoft's Office marketshare. I just think we need to keep a little perspective in the argument, that's all. What demographics will be most likely affected? Chromebookers, people who hate using Office, people who steal Office, and nobody else. I don't think losing those demographics will kill anything, just sayin.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Get Points Just for Watching

Today Ars Technica is reporting that Microsoft will be including "Media Achievements" with the new Xbox One. Essentially that seems to mean that Xbox One users will get awards for consuming media. Have we really come to the point as a society where we now earn merit badges for watching entire seasons of "The Walking Dead"? The place where sitting in front of Hulu for 18 hours is seen as some sort of achievement?

Yeah... Got it, mom. Outside... Play...Fresh air... How's it going with those Lunchables?

Look, I like a good show as much as the next person, but this is a terrible idea on so many levels that it's frankly laughable. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that pitch meeting.

In conclusion, we believe our profits will increase by 17% and in the process we will encourage childhood obesity, behavioral issues and poor grades. We really see it as a win-win.

Lets step away from the fact that it erodes the bedrock of society by encouraging hermitism and look at what the research says.

According to the Mayo Clinic children over the age of two should have no more than one or two hours of screen time a day... Hmmm, I wonder which demographic Microsoft sees as a prime target? What happens when kids park in front of the screen for too long? Um how about:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

I may be making assumptions here, but Microsoft may not be thinking about the best interests of our kids with this program. They might have their own agenda... As educators and parents we are on the front lines and we have a responsibility to inspire our kids to be thinkers in a world that desperately wants to numb their minds.

References from the Mayo Clinic website:
  1. Christakis DA, et al. Television, video and computer game usage in children under 11 years of age. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2004;145:652.
  2. Dennison BA, et al. Television viewing and television in bedroom associated with overweight risk among low-income preschool children. Pediatrics. 2002;109:1028.
  3. Council on communications and media. Media use by children younger than 2. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  4. Jordan AB, et al. Reducing children's television-viewing time: A qualitative study of parents and their children. Pediatrics. 2006;118:e1303.
  5. Ginsburg KR, et al. The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics. 2007;119:182.
  6. Thompson DA, et al. The association between television viewing and irregular sleep schedules among children less than 3 years of age. Pediatrics. 2005;116:851.
  7. Borzekowski DLG, et al. The remote, the mouse and the No. 2 pencil: The household media environment and academic achievement among third grade students. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2005;159:607.
  8. Zimmerman FJ, et al. Early cognitive stimulation, emotional support, and television watching as predictors of subsequent bullying among grade-school children. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2005;159:384.
  9. Council on communications and media. Children, adolescents, obesity and the media. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  10. Laurson KR, et al. Combined influence of physical activity and screen time on recommendations on childhood overweight. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2008;153:209.
  11. Broughton DD. Keeping kids safe in cyberspace. AAP News. 2005;26:11.
  12. Moreno MA, et al. Reducing screen time for children. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2011;165:1056.
  13. Page AS, et al. Children's screen viewing is related to psychological difficulties irrespective of physical activity. Pediatrics. 2010;126:e1011.
  14. Sege RD. Television and media violence. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  15. Christakis DA, et al. Preschool-aged children's television viewing in child care settings. Pediatrics. 2009;124:1627.
  16. Lapierre MA, et al. Background television in the homes of US children. 2012;130:1.
  17. Swing EL, et al. Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems. Pediatrics. 2010;126:214.
  18. Schmidt ME, et al. Systematic review of effective strategies for reducing screen time among young children. 2012;20:1338.
  19. Foley LS, et al. Presleep activities and time of sleep onset in children. 2013;131:276.
  20. Reduce screen time and get active. Let's Move. Accessed May 23, 2013.
  21. Media education. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy. Accessed May 23, 2013.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Real time collaboration in Office 365

Microsoft announced that they will be adding real time collaboration functionality into their Office 365 web apps and in the process plan on getting all Googley. Ok, maybe they didn't announce that last bit, but they might as well have, and frankly it's about time.

So they told me my documents were in a "cloud". 

Many of us have, ok some of us... Ok, both of us who use Office 365 in education have been quietly biding our time waiting for the promises to start to ring true and we are weary. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look it's Google this and Google that and I'm sick of being on the outside. No, Microsoft might not have great T-shirts or be very good at promoting their educational programs ( but I chose Office 365 with good reason. Office products are good... No, they're excellent and I was promised that the Web Apps would soon have parity with Google Docs. So, for me today is something akin to Christmas, well maybe more of an Arbor Day, but the point is that I'm still pretty excited. The promises - they're coming true!

Here's what I've gleaned from the web so far:
  • Other stuff:
    • Updates to Word -"include ability to find and replace words and phrases, apply styles and formatting to tables, and insert headers and footers for more professional reports and papers". Loads more info here.
    • Updates to Excel - "the new ability to drag and drop cells and reorder sheets, ability to load workbooks that contain Sheet Protection, status bar aggregates, drag and drop to reorder worksheets, and cells. More info can be found here.
    • Updates to PowerPoint - Want to crop those photos within the PowerPoint Web App? Go ahead, there's no stopping you now! 

Also, I rebooted the blog - so let me know what you think.