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Google Hopes to Build Email Empire on Freebies

Following an odd trend in outsourced IT, Oberlin College will soon be the latest of many high-profile U.S. higher-learning institutions relying on Google for its email network. The school's CTO, John Bucher, estimates the move will save the college over $100,000 in email system upgrade costs.

And Google won't make a cent.

Instead, the company's losing money on its Google Apps for Education venture, despite a growing list of "customers" that includes Arizona State University, Northwestern, Hope College, Sarah Lawrence, Macalester College, Pomona College, Hofstra, University of North Carolina (Greensboro), Clemson University, University of Texas (San Antonio), Kennesaw State University, Arkansas State University... among many others.

"Google looks at the four years as potential to reach a new audience and grow a customer base. These students will be familiar with the applications upon entering the business world and we hope to have users for life after they've been introduced to Google Apps during their college years," states Google spokesperson Meghan Hughes in an email to Byte and Switch.

An unusual take on SaaS, perhaps. Still, by the time many of today's college students start working, Google will have fleshed out its SaaS story further and be ready to tap ready-made prospects. A few budding IT pros may eventually turn back to Google for these outsourced offerings, especially if they wind up working for SMBs. Smaller firms may be able to tap the advantages of outsourced email and related apps, without requiring the high-end content-management, filtering, and archiving features of enterprise email systems.

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