Google has pulled out of the tender process for Next Generation Glow, raising fears over the future of the schools platform.
A commercial procurement process along the lines of the Scottish government's was inconsistent with the company's philosophy, said Google's head of enterprise, William Florance. Nor was it in the best interests of Scottish pupils and teachers, or the councils that support them, he added.
It is understood that, due to the free-of-charge nature of the Next Generation Glow platform, few companies have been able to take part in the tender. There is also speculation that Google's withdrawal may leave Microsoft as the only applicant left in the process.
In a statement issued last week explaining Google's decision, Mr Florance said the firm's philosophy was to provide its Apps for Education platform "openly and at no cost to all qualifying schools".
"Although a single, common platform for collaboration would be preferable, we feel it is important to provide local authorities with the option of deploying Google Apps for Education independently of the national procurement process and on a timescale of your own choosing," he added.
ICT experts have voiced fears that with the current contractor RM Education's contract for Glow due to run out in September, there may not be enough time to transfer the thousands of pieces of information held by Glow to another provider.
Twitter users expressed concerns that offering services directly to councils could lead to a national platform being abandoned and fragmentation of the online service.
A spokesman for Education Scotland said that for reasons of commercial sensitivity, it could not comment on the current evaluation process while it was ongoing.
On its website, Education Scotland says it will work with users to move content from the existing services to the new services, and that it would be "helpful if local authorities start the process of identifying key content that they would want to move across" before September.
The site also stresses there is no risk of Glow being "turned off" once the current contract ends, and that the education secretary, Michael Russell, is committed to "replacing it with a better solution".
The government announced last autumn it was pulling the plug on Glow Futures, the stage of development for which companies had originally been invited to tender. The latest tender is to provide an "integrated application suite".
Mr Russell said last year that in future, Glow would consist of "the variety of free tools and open source services that already exist on the web" via the Interconnect, key education websites and Education Scotland's website.
A Scottish government spokesman told TESS: "Meeting the needs and interests of pupils, parents and teachers remains the main focus of our plans to deliver the benefits of sharing and using information, safely, online in education in Scotland."
Word on twitter
Reactions to Google's decision from the #eduScotIct Twitter feed.
- don_iain: If the procurement process was incompatible with Google's philosophy, then why express an interest to tender at all?
- fkelly: Perhaps it's just time to abandon any national solution and just free things up for, and encourage local approaches?
- fkelly: Is the vision for future of Glow set out by @Feorlean going to be realised with only Microsoft in? http:youtu.beTVD7k3nw_CQ
- parslad: Google do not excite me. They've no obligation to Scottish education. We require significant, appropriate investment.
- daveterron: Really angry that we were assured that our voicesconcerns would be listened to at the Stirling meeting last October.
- PhysicsNick: Glow going in September? It was never that good anyway IMHO.