Google Won the Kids

April 24, 2022

The last time I had to use Microsoft Word was elementary school. We’d type up our “essays” in Word, then save them onto a flash drive to keep working at home. Those were the days when “8GB flash drive” was included on my school supplies list at the beginning of the year.

But very quickly, Google Drive took over. By middle school, every student in the district was using Docs instead of Word, Slides instead of Powerpoint, and Sheets instead of Excel. And that’s how it’s stayed.

Somehow, Google managed to win the upcoming generation (at least in the U.S., in upper middle class school districts). They pushed really hard to get school districts signed up with Google Drive accounts for every student, and made solid features for IT departments to manage entire districts remotely.

They sold huge fleets of Chromebooks to school districts, and districts used them to replace their more-expensive MacBook Airs or less-capable iPads. And once a school is running on Chromebooks, Google has their tendrils deep in the school’s IT setup — everything can run through Google, Chrome OS (the software that Chromebooks run), and Google Drive.

This is an extraordinarily smart move. Google started with schools because it’s the way to win a decade later. From what I see, it seems like all the high schoolers and college students I know strongly prefer Google Docs and Slides. Nobody knows how to work the Microsoft equivalents — we’ve never had to.

But the argument we’ve heard again and again is that the real world uses Microsoft products. That when you get a job, you’ll need to learn the Microsoft products.

And that might very well be true. But the world is malleable, and soon the generation that Google nurtured will move into the real world. Google’s suite has much better collaboration and seems more intuitive, so as Microsoft’s historical advantage fades, so will Microsoft’s tools fade in importance.

Google planted their seeds a decade ago, and soon it’ll be time to harvest.