Lenovo and Microsoft just won a 220,000 unit contract for $150 million to supply 9th through 12th grade students IdeaPad S10e Netbooks (roughly $681 each). An additional $25 million will be spent on software and infrastructure.
The school region has an existing computer program, however, these new units will give every student an opportunity to have and use a PC starting with the 9th graders. Eventually all students will have PCs to use.
Initially the Netbooks will come with XP–or potentially they always will, it’s a little unclear–however, Microsoft has given the go ahead for the school to use its volume licensing program and replace the purchased OS with Windows 7 when it becomes available. I’m assuming that down the road when XP is no longer available that the schools will always be purchasing less expensive and more restrictive licenses of Windows 7 and then again replacing them with their more powerful volume license versions. Then again, maybe in education XP will be a choice for awhile.
Anyway, 220,000 units is a lot of Netbooks. Matched with Windows 7 I think there’s a good match.
There’s a part of me that’s not too sure about programs like this.
First, I question whether notebooks are the way to go. It’s not that I don’t think all students should have and use them. Instead, I wonder if Microsoft, Apple, and the OEMs shouldn’t be creating more eReader like devices. That is, a book model, to me would make more sense. Now I’m not talking in terms of an eReader like you see today, though that’s a start. What I see is an engineering opportunity to build a book-like device that’s more interactive so it supports both consuming content and creating it (including typed and hand created content). Actually, a device like this might make the most sense for K-6 where that’s probably more workbook and reading focus vs volume of generated content, however, done right I think the book model fits better than the generic computer model. Given the right technology, you would still have a device that’s capable of browsing the Internet, receiving and sending content, and the like. It’s just that it probably wouldn’t run the classic Windows or Mac OS. Instead, it would be geared towards more limited use, thereby requiring less hardware, being potentially more secure, less expensive, and I think valuable. Some might argue that all you need is limited client and put everything online, but current online content still doesn’t match the reading experience I think most people have in mind. There’s opportunity here.
I see general notebooks as devices that make more sense as the volume of content creation increases–which would be towards the college years. K9-12 is close and might justify the primary machine being a full PC, but I have my doubts. I see an interactive eReader like device being the primary device and a PC being an optional, personal piece of equipment.
Rather than there being a whole Windows-vs-Mac-vs-Linux argument going on, I think there needs to be a challenge to the software and hardware vendors to create and build a better eReader for schools. That’s my take.