Enter the Chromebook

Categories: Gadgetry
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: May 11, 2011

How quickly thing change. For weeks, my school district has been discussing tablets in a 1:1 environment. Just yesterday I was talking about user management and device profiles for tablets.

Today, Google made the Chromebook official:

That is slick. For $20 a month, students can get a laptop computer running ChromeOS, putting them online all the time with 3G access. We’ve pushed several of our services onto the cloud, including our email and a good portion of our documents via Google Apps for Education, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to do something like this. It even has a web-based management console featuring the same controls I talked about in yesterday’s post!

There’s just one problem: it’s about three years too late.

I realize the back end was probably not ready to go for this three years ago. Google Apps (as it exists now) wasn’t even on our radar, and ChromeOS was a distant rumor. But with tablets on the scene, I’m curious to see how well this is going to work.

For starters, it’s not as portable as a tablet. Yes, it gives students a full-featured keyboard, but it’s bulkier to keep on a desk or to use for quick notes. A nitpick to be sure, but we’re just getting warmed up.

It costs $20/month. That’s a great price, one I bet most parents would even be able to pay in a cash-strapped school district. However, for $240/year, they could just about own a basic Android device or, in two years, an iPad or top-tier Android tablet.

That $20/month only includes 100MB of data over 3G. A teenager could burn that up in ten minutes. Sure, the device also has WiFi, which students will use in school and, ideally, at home. But our rural district has several students in dial-up only areas or don’t have WiFi at home. If they’re going to use the device without WiFi available, the total cost just doubled to $40/month to include a better data plan.

Student athletes will have the same problem. If they’re trying to do homework on an hour-plus bus ride, or even just want to listen to their music on Google Music or kill time with a few videos on YouTube, they’re going to eat up a lot of 3G data transfer.

Is there a Web app for that? Yes, a lot can be done with a student’s Google Apps account and some of the extras like Picasa and Google Books. But is it as extensive as the Android or iOS app stores? Are you going to get instant-on, always-available service from a web app? Sure, you can store books on your account, but will it have all the textbooks available? Or the new textbook apps available on iOS devices?

Some of those questions may be answered soon, and they’re not necessarily deal killers. It could at the very least be an affordable way for smaller schools already hooked into Google Apps to get more technology into students’ hands.

Now if only there were a similar purchase plan for the top-notch Android tablets…

1 Comment
  1. […] addition to what I discussed yesterday, here are my […]

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