Google is talking with educational-software companies to help build a marketplace for online learning programs, an industry whose value may approach $5 billion this year. Games and instructional tools for teachers from companies such as Grockit and Aviary are already offered in the Google Apps Marketplace, an online store that opened in March. Google, the worlds largest search engine, seeks to lure more educational developers and is stepping up efforts to generate revenue from the project, executives say. Software sales for US schools and colleges this year should surpass the 2009 total of $4.6 billion, according to Parthenon Group. That could provide a new growth stream for Google, which gets most of its sales from search advertising. The company works with schools, providing free word processing, e-mail and spreadsheet programs to students and teachers. Now it wants to help outside developers sell applications to educators. If we can provide access to education apps to our 10 million users in thousands of schools, then that would be a win all around, said Obadiah Greenberg, Googles business development manager for education. Most software makers with products on Google Apps Marketplace now collect all revenue from sales generated through the site. In the coming months, Mountain View, California-based Google plans to begin taking a 20% share of sales, Greenberg said.
Programs in the Apps Marketplace can be operated inside the private Web domains many schools have set up with Google, said James Birchfield, instructional technology specialist at Harwich Public Schools in Massachusetts. A teacher logs into a Google Apps account and they can access anything in the marketplace, said Birchfield, who is known by colleagues as the Google guru. It gives you a one-stop-shop kind of thing where we know we can integrate it and we know where its all saved. Aviary Education, one of the first education apps offered on the site, is a free Web-based tool that lets students edit images and audio recordings in a private environment that can be monitored by a teacher. Its often used by teachers who want students to record class presentations and share them online, said Michael Galpert, cofounder of New York-based Aviary. The more that they promote Google services in the classroom, the larger the audience we get, Galpert said. The company now gets most of its new customers through Googles Marketplace, he said.