IBM announced plans on Wednesday to make its software available to colleges via a Web-based “cloud” service that the company says will make it easier for professors to incorporate technology into their classes.
But is the splashy cloud announcement corporate puff?
As IBM describes it, the company is working initially with 20 colleges to help them use software for things like analyzing data and building Web sites. By hosting it remotely in the “cloud,” IBM will allow professors the convenience of logging in online to work with the software free without having to install and maintain it themselves. The hope is that by making it easier, many more will start to use the technology.
“It’s going to be used by medical schools, it’s going to be used by business schools — all kinds of disciplines are using our software today,” says Mark Hanny, an IBM vice president.
But after perusing the IBM Web site, Edward D. Lazowska, holder of the Bill & Melinda Gates chair in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, said the announcement “looks like PR to me.”
“Every company makes software available for free for educational purposes — no news there,” he says in an e-mail message.
He adds, “My guess — although I could be wrong — is that they have taken a set of professional training materials — Microsoft’s version of this is what they used to call ‘Microsoft University’ or the Microsoft certified professional program — and made them available to schools and colleges, with the goal of producing graduates who are trained on IBM tools — WebSphere, etc.”