By Simon Bond

2016 will be the year of the cloud.

And Google is raising the stakes, hiring Diane Greene, one of its board members and founder of VMware, to run its cloud business. The announcement follows Urs Holzle, Google’s infrastructure chief’s statement that the company’s cloud revenue could surpass it's $59 billion revenue advertising business by 2020.

This implies huge potential growth for Google’s cloud business, which is a fraction of Amazon’s size—Bezos has also said that AWS could one day become Amazon’s largest business. Google’s move suggests the company is getting serious about its cloud division.

To shed some light on the cloud uplift it has been reported by CNBC that in the United States Google, Microsoft and Apple have been competing for years in the very lucrative education technology market, and now for the first time, Google has taken a huge lead over its rivals.

 

Chromebooks now make up more than half of all devices in U.S. classrooms, up from less than 1 percent in 2012, according to a new report from Futuresource Consulting. To analysts, this comes as a big surprise.

"While it was clear that Chromebooks had made progress in education, this news is, frankly, shocking," said Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder. "Chromebooks made incredibly quick inroads in just a couple of years, leaping over Microsoft and Apple with seeming ease. Combine Chromebooks with devices running on Android, and Google's share of the edtech (educational technology) market is even more impressive. As of the third quarter of this year it had 53 percent of the market for K-12 devices bought by schools and school districts.

Google's rapid gains come at the expense of its biggest rivals. Over the past three years, Apple's market share been slashed by more than half, from 52 to 24 percent and Microsoft's market share has slipped from 43 to 24 percent. Even Google seems a little surprised.

"It's been amazing to us to see that growth happen just in that short amount of time," said Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome in business and education. "If you look at the overall market for devices in education, it's actually expanded a lot and Chromebooks have actually taken a lot of the expansion."

Also known as the "father of Google Apps," Sheth leads a team that has delivered impressive results. So far this year, Google's Chromebooks make up 4.4 million of the 8.9 million devices sold to schools and school districts K-12. Put another way, every school day 30,000 new Chromebooks are activated in schools.

Google's gains come as the edtech market emerges as an important growth prospect for the tech giants, as school districts bring big budgets online, and PC and tablet sales in other industries flat-line.  

"It's one of the few bright spots in the market. That's why we are seeing this battle in education, they all know how important the education segment is, it's critical," said Futuresource analyst Mike Fisher. "It's basically a head-on fight for the entry level part of the market that is procuring huge volumes." 

Expect more storm clouds after the holidays.