Two dates are looming and may make the job of school technology leaders a bit more complex. Windows 7 is due in October 2009. More important, Microsoft says that after April 2010, you can’t downgrade to Windows XP, only Vista.

Conservative school leaders have been downgrading new computer purchases from Vista to XP, and may also not want to jump too soon on the Windows 7 bandwagon. The “latest” hasn’t always been the “greatest”.

Will these two dates impact the way school leaders look at the GNU/Linux alternatives?

UPDATE: Within a day of the original date announcement, the ability to downgrade to XP has been extended. Now it is 18 months later April 2011, instead of just six months.

Apparently, Microsoft heard from somebody about the issue and paid attention!

[Microsoft in an open source blog? If you can't wait, jump ahead to the last paragraph.]

The recent small format notebook computers have generally been called netbooks, though I understand it is actually like calling a tissue “Kleenex” or an electrostatic copy a “Xerox.” I don’t intend to step on anybody’s toes, but will go ahead with the term, anyway.

One issue raised regularly in the various one-to-one student-computer scenarios is price. When I was talking about it years back, I envisioned that it wouldn’t be really feasible unless the units were priced under $250. Netbooks are just about there, and if the projection can be believed, the netbook-like OLPC-2 might someday be available for that price or less.

Another issue is taking the main burden of cost away from the schools. Unless the netbook successfully replaces the present stack of textbooks (which it might), the netbook would be an extra cost in tough times for the finance of public education. The cost issue might be solved by letting student/parent be somewhat or wholly responsible for the tool through a multi-year lease or rental…read responsible for proper care. Parents could also opt to buy the unit themselves, reducing the school cost further.

Durability is another issue. The unit should be ready for the use given it by a student. Enough said.

Now, we come to the reason for this post. This blog is about open source software in schools. I just read in the online Wall Stree Journal that Windows 7 is going to be an option for the new netbooks we will see in the next year or so. BUT, the Microsoft proposal apparently is to limit the number of active programs to just three (3). For users of Roman numerals that is III. Given that the crippled netbook version would cost more than Linux, and Linux runs just fine on netbooks, I just don’t see the point. How about you?


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