Are schools ready for Chrome OS? Lenovo thinks so.
Today Lenovo announced that they will be selling an alternative version of their ThinkPad X131e laptop with ChromeOS. The minor caveat here is that the X131e will be an education-only laptop. No word has been given yet on price, but the current Windows version is selling for a little over $500. Given previous Chromebook pricing it's likely the final price will be between $250 and $350, which is actually really affordable for schools.
This will be an interesting experiment for Lenovo and ChromeOS. Given the nature of the way ChromeOS works it's pretty ideal for a school system. The only overhead with a laptop like this will be hardware, since the OS is so locked down. This is a huge time-saver for IT admins, since it means less imaging and software maintenance. The ROI could also be pretty high given that a lightweight OS can allow the hardware to last longer; of course this is assuming it's not destroyed first.
Since ChromeOS relies on using a Google account to log in, a school would have to assume that their students have Google accounts or they adopt Google Apps. Adopting Google apps can save a district some money, but it presents an issue of relying on internet connections. Yes, Google supports offline caching but remember that you have to account for the fact that not every user may turn that on.
There are other factors such as ensuring that a student always has access to their documents. While they would be working in Google Drive and can log in from anywhere, this again presents the issue of assuming that all users are capable of understanding how this works. An issue where this may not make sense to a user is if they're working in a specialized lab with Windows desktops and open up their home folder but don't see the file they were working on the period before. You could hypothetically install the Drive software but with software like that you can't just use a simple log-in script; it requires the user to initiate the log-in.
Specialized software is an issue in its own but with the advancement of VDI (virtualized desktop infrastructure) from Citrix and VMWare, it's making it easier to move away from full labs. It's possible you could see a school turn to Chromeboxes and Chromebooks provided their VDI solution allows for browser access.
These are just some of the issues that may arise from trying to adopt ChromeOS in a school and they are addressable, but it requires a rethinking of how a school uses computers, from all levels of the school. I think this will be a good experiment for Lenovo and may help them break into a market that is heavily dominated by Dell and HP. If they can provide a low-cost device with a good ROI they may just be able to get schools to buy into ChromeOS.
In theory this makes a lot of sense because of the low cost and lack of the need for programs running in the background. This will hurt both Apple and Microsoft if it goes mainstream, although Apple won't be hurting nearly as much as Microsoft. Lenovo makes good products and Chromebooks seem right for a sort of public machine so I'm glad someone intelligent is making decisions.
Shitty Dell computers that I had to use in my days took forever to start up and were the slowest things around. Apple devices are really expensive and require teachers to not only embrace tech (most older folks resist anything new) and know how to use an OS that few people are familiar with.
Chrome is simple and doesn't stop you from doing anything. Hopefully Google won't build in any dumbass sort of security measures like trying to stop kids from watching porn or playing video games. If they want to do something, they're going to do it and trying to stop kids are only going to make them want whatever it is more. I know a lot of parents who try to stop their kids from playing Call of Duty, yet when they go to their friend's house, guess what they play?