So Google announced Chomebooks for Education which costs $20 a month (Thank you TechCrunch for rushing a paragraph long article out for me to quote)…
ChromeBooks, centralized, almost entirely cloud-based machines by Google, will be available for students and schools at $20/per month/per user, enabling full updates, central login controls, and a central administrator panel to handle users and control access.
I don’t have a lot of time to make this post. But I’m already seeing “Wow, Google just made it possible for every child to have a notebook” tweets so I wanted to address the reality as someone who is responsible for a school. To put this in perspective I’m going to list the costs for our most recent “student computer” configuration. This configuration has been deployed to our Los Angeles location since September of 2010 and has been running (reasonably) flawlessly since then.
Here are the costs to maintain that configuration over 4 years (the life of the Asus Eee PC we are using)
(We actually used the Asus Desktops but I'm trying to compare Apples to Apples here so I quoted the Eee PC 1015PEM 10.1" Netbook)
Deep Freeze: $24
Office 2010: $99.95
Internet Filter: $26
Memeo Connect: $24
Grand Total: $11.64 per Month
So as you can see the Chomebook would almost double our cost per month while severely limiting us because it can’t run Windows programs (which most educational software still is).
Now, in fairness, the cloud portion of the above configuration is made possible by Google generously providing free access to Google Docs and GMail. Because of that we can use Memeo Connect and give the kids cloud access to their files. So kudos to Google for that.
But that’s exactly what makes Google Chromebooks unattractive. With the above I can actually deploy Windows 7 netbooks. Netbooks that can run all the kids games, do desktop publishing (there’s no Google Docs equivalent to Publisher), run one of the existing web filtering programs and still do everything a Chromebook can (since it has Chrome loaded as its default browser).
Beyond that we use Faronics Deep Freeze which is a program that restores the default configuration on every boot. So even Google’s security checks aren’t an advantage over this configuration. And since the updates run automatically on Sunday morning (the computer unfreezes so changes can be made) the auto-update is taken care of as well.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I don’t applaud Google for trying. But this isn’t a game changer by any measure. In fact, as I understand it right now, it isn’t even usable for schools.
Addendum: For the record my point isn't to dump on Google. If I had more time I'd point out some things Google could have done and could still do to make the Chromebook a viable option (and I'll definitely post that in the next couple days so stay tuned). I just wanted to get something out there quickly to do my small part to redirect the "Google saves schools" meme I saw developing.
2nd Addendum: From Danny Sullivan...
Google says there’s a three year subscription required. Hardware will be upgraded at the end of the three years, if people want to continue on the plans.
So with my current plan we'd pay about $1,676 for hardware and software over a 12 year period. With Google Chromebook for Education it would be $2,880. That's clearly an unfair comparison in many ways (most notably that we'd have newer computers for a few years of that if we went with Google). But it doesn't change the reality. If I were to switch tomorrow it would cost that much more.