Excellent quick article on Ars about the University of Virginia not running computer labs anymore: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/03/whats-the-point-of-running.ars
Wired’s Gadget Lab has a preliminary look at the Asus EEE 900. It looks awesome but the price is getting a little high to be an ultra-affordable ultra-portable. I would say $400 is a max for a machine like this as you can get a full-fledged Dell laptop for around $600. The new EEE 900 is priced at $550 according to Wired.
I suppose you could get three of these instead of one MacBook. I really like the EEE, but the iLife suite is a great set of tools for students and I am not sure if the EEE, without a CD drive, would be as suitable for young kids, software-wise.
In one of my first blog posts, following the release of the MacBook Air, I lamented the fact that no company had created what I thought was an appropriate portable learning device for students. The device I envisioned was small, cheap, portable and had the necessary tools built-in (word processing, digital imaging and video, editing, network connectivity, etc.).
Apparently I need to eat my hat, because a flood of inexpensive Ultra-Mobile PC’s have cropped up lately. Now this could be a case of the everyone-drives-the-same-car-as-me syndrome, in which, when you get a new car you begin noticing how many of those same cars are one the road. More than you ever noticed before. So once I started keeping a lookout for the perfect student computer, I started noticing them. It could be that.
But I do think there are other things at play which allowed Apple to create the MacBook Air. One is that hardware is coming of age in this area. Flash memory is dropping in price so it is now cost-effective to put a 20 GB solid-state drive in a laptop. Small screens are cheap, and clearly processors are too. I also think companies are jumping on a bit of a bandwagon. With the OLPC rpoject getting so much press and at least one manufacturer (ASUS) having success with its own UMPC (the EEE PC), this is the market to get into right now. Consumers, I think, are also realising that they don’t need a $2000 computer just to check their email and surf the web (sales of the Air are not stellar as far as I know).
I came across two good sites recently, one highlights the new HP ultra-portable (a bit of a high-end device) and the other covers the range of UMPC’s available.HP launches The Linux Powered Mini Note Micro Notebook Liliputing: A comprehensive List of Low-Cost Ultra Portables
This is a very exciting development. I will say, I don’t think any of the big players here have made the perfect one for very young children. I would add touch-screen, tablet-like behavior to make it truly friendly to younger children. Some of those listed at Liliputing have tablet abilities, but I would still like to see HP, Asus or Apple try their hand at this. Apple, interestingly, has a patent on a dual-screen laptop that might be very interesting. Instead of a keybaord on the lower half of the laptop, it has another screen, with the ability to do all teh things the iPhone does in terms of virtual keyboard, multi-touch interface and even, potentially, more screen real-estate. That would be cool!
As for me, I am pining after the new Asus EEE 900.
And thinking of moving my next school to linux-based portables for students. Any thoughts? Leave a comment.
Why can’t Alphasmart, Apple, Dell, Intel, or even Leapfrog, create a portable learning tool for students? Really. This does not strike me as terribly difficult. Surely there is a willing market of schools and students who would want such a device. So why did we not see the perfect device appear at Macworld yesterday?
If I have not made it clear in some of my previous posts, I believe ubiquitous computing is a must in schools today. Anytime anywhere learning is crucial for both students and teachers to truly integrate technology into their day. One of the main problems with one-to-one laptop programs is the question of cost-effectiveness: does it really make financial sense to give a student a $1000+ laptop? Some of the fallout from doing so is often a culture of fear of not using such an expensive device. If the school has paid so much for a computer, the students better be using it 24/7.
It would be preferable, in my opinion, to buy a $300 device that was smaller perhaps than a full laptop and yet did all the things a student might need to do. While several devices have emerged very recently I am still not convinced anyone is taking this very seriously. Apple would have been my bet, with their history of serving education, but they seem to be getting away from that. Switching to Intel processors and abandoning OS9 has rendered hundreds of excellent educational software titles in our school’s library completely useless. Now, I happen to think that OSX and the bundled iLife suite currently offer students the best learning tools for education today, but even a basic Macbook is around $1000. Why not, Apple?
The OLPC, Intel’s Classmate, the Asus EEE PC and the Everex Cloudbook are all entering this market, though the first two are for emerging markets and the latter seem more for cheapskates than students. I have nothing against emerging markets nor Linux but I do not see any of these as a perfect device. I guess I think we need to depart from the “laptop” idea. Something that is part iPhone, part tablet PC, part EEE PC, part OLPC and part Amazon Kindle. Touch display, pen interaction, built-in camera, webcam and video cam, web browser, small form factor, rugged and lightweight. All for $300. Is that too much to ask?
But someday soon. If not Apple, then maybe Alphasmart, or Leapfrog or some new company. I think perhaps the big guys are too married to the laptop form factor.
The Macbook Air is nice though. I wouldn’t say no to one myself.