doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

A Plan Needed

For a web-based operating system to succeed, you’ll need continuous access to the internet.  In education, this shouldn’t be a big deal as more and more school districts embrace wireless access for computers.  Many hardware vendors are selling rolling carts for laptop computers already and this typically comes with a wireless access point.

Roll the cart into the classroom, plug in the wireless access point, and you’re good to go.  It’s not a step of any quantity to move from a laptop environment to a netbook one.  The pricing is certainly better and, if you can go with the smaller display, there should be no problem.  As indicated in a previous post if the goal is to be connected to do internet research or to use web based applications, the portability makes it a very attractive option – both financially and pedagogically.  Make the entire school wireless and the process gets even easier.  It’s a great plan.

Image via Wikipedia

I’m still fuzzy when it comes to taking it on the road.  At home, it’s no different from any other wireless device.

It sits nicely on the lap in a chair or on a patio table with connection to the wireless access point.  No problem.

It’s when you take it to the road that issues arise.  Without internet access, even current web based applications go away.  If you’re accustomed to checking email first thing in the morning, you’d better ensure that where you’re headed has internet availability.

So, while I’m comfortable with a picture of netbooks in education, I’m still struggling with a web-based OS and web-stored documents as a total solution.  I can see a plan for home; I can see a plan for schools; I can see a plan for coffee shops … but what if you’re a blogger that enjoys a cup of coffee at the cabin?

One plan might include something like Rogers’ Power stick.  Plug it in to your USB port and you’re connected.  It works, provided coverage is available.  Just like a mobile phone plan, you pay for the access and away you go.  For the home user, this would mean owning two internet accounts.  The price of ownership of the netbook just increased.  This super highway isn’t quite as super any more.  You’re paying twice for two ways to get to the same place.

Upon further reflection, we really haven’t got it yet when it comes to accessing the internet.  We have various Community Access Programs and libraries to help the cause.  But, go to a hotel / motel and what do you have?  Ironically, it’s the small “mom and pop” motel that provides free wireless and it’s advertised as a drawing point.  But, go to many of the big major chains and you can be paying up to $14.95 a day for internet access.

No matter which way you slice it, you’re using a single point of access wherever you go.  These points may belong to a variety of providers.  They all also need to eat.

I recognize the business realities in all of this.  Internet access companies aren’t charities and they need sales to survive and innovate.  But, we need to find some way to make all of this puzzle easier to solve.  In Ontario, we do have very good options.  But they are only very good if you stay in one spot.  Start to move around and it jumbles.

With a web-based OS, it could get even more difficult.  I’m thinking that it would make sense that your home internet account is an “on-ramp” to a connection no matter where you are or how you’re connected.  Pay one fee and let the companies work together to ensure connectivity where you may go.  Just like telephone, there would be the possibility of long-distance charges.  This could come in the form of a premium plan or a pay as you go option.  But, we need to find some way to make it happen.

Or, maybe we just sit back and wait for Google to release a web-based OS and use this as a way to leverage their way into the Internet provider market.

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3 responses to “A Plan Needed”

  1. […] A Plan Needed environment to a netbook one.  The pricing is certainly better and, if you can go with the smaller….  The price of ownership of the netbook just increased.  This super highway isn’t quite as super any […]


  2. I think you have hit th nail on the head here. Putting things in the cloud is wonderful as long as you have a good fast connection to that cloud. But those connections are not there everywhere yet. In the US in poor rural areas and many poor urban areas depending too much on the cloud means that students (and teachers) can’t always connect from home. How do we deal with that and leave those students out? It’s a hard question.


  3. I think your comments are bang on. The performance issue, along with consistent quality access will be the critical as the potential of cloud computing gets more thinking and ‘air’ time. Without these in place, it will be doomed – I am willing to bet frustrated users would vote with their feet so to speak.

    I came across the link below today on an email feed and thought I would throw this into the mix for discussion.

    ~ Mark


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