An Interesting Business Case

I can’t remember the last time that someone sent me a document as an attachment to an email.  Well, except for the social phishers who indicate that I can claim my winning lottery prize by opening the attachment.  But, I’m no dummy – I know that you have to at least buy a ticket to have a chance of winning…

So, back to the document bit.  I’m a real fan of OpenOffice as an office productivity suite.  It’s compatible with the major “pay for play” products in virtually every feature of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  And it’s free, unlike other products that can run hundreds of dollars.  Sadly, in so much that I’m a fan, I can’t remember the last time I even opened it.  It’s not like I don’t work and share documents daily – nothing could be further from the truth – what I’m working with is shared and online in my Google Drive account.  In a fit of housekeeping, I might even save some local hard drive space by deleting them.  But I don’t need the storage space and so just don’t.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve been on a mission to see if I could live in a browser.  And I think I could do so very nicely.  From power on to sleep, everything I do seems to be done within Google Chrome (or Mozilla Firefox just to shake things up.)  For all intents and purposes though, it’s in Google Chrome and I’m connected to the web.  Ever when the computer isn’t able to connect via wifi, I can tether to a cell phone.  And yet, I’m doing so on fairly expensive computers.  I don’t think my logic is any different from anyone else – when you buy a new computer, you want to get the most powerful one that you can, with as big a hard drive as you can afford, and the best of specs.  Is it overkill in this day and age?  Could everything be done in a browser?

Google thinks so.

I’ve been intrigued with Chromebooks since I worked with one at the ECOO Conference last year.  Very light, compact, extremely quick to boot, and the operating system is essentially the Google Chrome browser.  All for the fraction of the cost of my traditional laptop.  My technology stor in the city offers three models.  None of the computers exceeds $300.  The interesting concept is that, unlike my traditional laptop, which I feel like I have to own for 4-5 years to get my money’s worth and become increasingly frustrated with specs that take the inevitable technology slide, I could easily justify a 3 year ownership.  Google makes a good argument here.

They even include an online calculator comparing the cost of ownership between a regular PC and a Chromebook.  The comparison is quite interesting.  For yucks, I looked at the relative costs of 1000 computers.

Now, I’m not naive enough to overlook the fact that it came from a Google site and the goal was to persuade the visitor.  But, throw in whatever delta for error that you want and it’s something that school districts should be paying attention to.  Could you purchase more technology and move towards that magic 1:1?  Could you finally equip every teacher in the district with a legitimate device to meet needs?  It’s an interesting series of questions and I know many boards are going to give it a shot this fall.

Imagine how you can take the traditional roadblocks out of deployment.  No need to determine a suite of software titles for deployment; no need to develop and test/re-test an image and then deploy it.  No need to worry about an end of life for your operating system or applications that obsolete themselves because of incompatibilities.  No need for anti-virus software.  You set a good start page for the browser and your connection to the web takes care of the rest.

As much as I seem to be a fan of the concept, I can already see some areas where the traditional PC is still needed.  There will be co-operative education placements where students need familiarity with standard Office software before placement.  Computer Science classes that still require development software like Microsoft’s Visual Studio will require a different setup.

But consider the general use machine whose needs can be completely met with connectivity to the internet and the use of appropriate websites or by outfitting the browser with the right plugins?  Does the business case convince you of the value of a change? 

A lot of people think so.  I know that if I was making a personal purchase today, I’d take a long hard look.

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