Sunday, September 07, 2008

Is Google Video for business good for education?

Last week Google introduced a new video product: Google Video for business, this is part of their Google Apps Premiere Edition.

Google is also making this available in their Google Apps for Education, but I have reservations regarding the suitability of the product as currently offered.

1. The business Premiere Edition is $50/user/year, but Google is making Google Video "for business" free to Education Edition customers until March 8th 2009. After March 8th, 2009, the cost of the video service will be $10 per user per year

Google should have made it free until the end of the second semester, by June 1 for most institutions. Anyone seriously interested in using this needs to do it for the entire semester, so they better budget that $10/student right up front. It's a bit late for many to start piloting this new video product this semester. Four of the five apps (Sites, Docs, Calendar and Chat) are still in beta, how many simultaneous betas do we want to test?

This may be the start of the "drip, drip" in making money from some free Google services. But then they are a business, aren't they! And why should we expect a free service from anyone?

2. Google Videos "for business" uploaded to a Google Apps for Education domain can only be viewed by users at that domain.

Users are not permitted to share videos with people outside of their Google Apps account. This is a problem if you want to use Google Video for business to overcome the 10 megabyte file size upload limit in Sites.
As we all know, 10 megabytes does not get you much video! Individuals outside an institution's Apps for Education domain account can be invited to its Sites wikis as collaborators and viewers, but they will be blocked from viewing embedded videos.

3. According to this link, with the Education Edition the ability to upload videos should be limited to faculty and staff only. Hopefully this can be over-ridden by the administrator, and "should" is only an unfortunate suggestion. We see more and more students creating content on the web, we don't want to cripple this by making video uploading and sharing unavailable. Upload privileges should be controllable in a granular fashion, on a specific Docs or Sites basis.

4. While $10 per user per year may not sound expensive, it "applies to all uploaders and viewers using the service."  With say 2,000 students, 350 faculty and 250 staff, this is $26,000/year, not a small sum for many institutions.

I have to admit I still have not performed a thorough comparison of the differences as they apply to educational uses, including advantages and disadvantages, between YouTube, Google Video and Google Video for business, but the above limitations are a concern. In addition to the Google products there are of course other video sharing services that may provide a better fit to an institution's needs.

There is a naming confusion between the new Google Video for business and the normal Google Video. I can't find the Google page now, but it stated that Google Video for business is not the same as Google Video. Maybe they should use caps in the "for business"?

I have another little beef to get off my chest, while I am on the soapbox:

Google has been making high-quality downloadable MPEG4-H.264 versions of many of their regular Flash YouTube videos. However, the download link is hidden and has to be activated through a hard-to find but easy to use process. Google should locate the MPEG4 download button, when the download is available, to be clearly visible by default on their YouTube video pages.

We prefer to use MPEG4 when possible: Flash is proprietary, MPEG4 is an open standard. Flash does not play on portable devices, MPEG4 does, or can be easily converted to do so (iTunes>Advanced>Convert Selection). Downloaded YouTube vides are in the FLV format and can't be played without special players, or have to be converted, they don't play with Flash Player, MPEG4 can be played with QuickTime or iTunes. Flash files cannot be used in podcasts, MPEG4 can be. There is no reason, however, why the two formats can't peaceably coexist in educational settings, and their feature sets are constantly evolving.

If Google is making YouTube videos available as MPEG4s, they need to make them easier to find.

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