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EdTech Update




« Strategies for stretching your tech budget | Main | To see ourselves as others see us »

Ecomomics of the Chrome netbook: I don't get it

I'm trying to make financial sense out of Google's Chrome notebook lease plan. As I understand it, rather than sell the hardware, schools would lease these little devices for $20 a month with a three year commitment. The school does not own the notebooks at the end of the plan.

Since I don't have enough fingers to do the math, let me grab a calculator. If we were to do a 1:1 project in our district for grades 3-12 we'd need about 6000 units. 6000 X $20 X 36 months = $4,320,000 or $1,440,000 per year. (About $300,000 a year more than our entire current tech budget.)

While the Chrome notebooks look like nice little devices that are easily managed, have fast start-ups, and promise good battery life, they also are limited in functionality - no Flash, limited offline functionality, and few available apps. Big time wireless network upgrades would be needed and machines that could be used for mandated online testing would still need to be maintained.

Let's run another set of numbers. Supply each student with a $350 Windows netbook. Just for fun, we'll throw on the DeepFreeze management system. 6000 X $350 = $2,100,000. If rolled out over three years: $700,000 a year. About half the cost of the Chrome Netbook. Add OpenOffice for off-line productivity and stay with GoogleApps for Education. Runs Flash and might play well with state tests.

What am I missing here? Why would I want to pay twice the money for half the functionality? And be stuck in a budget with tails (risky in times of volatile school funding). Is the Google lease plan just for districts that qualify for E-rate funding for hardware?

I love you Google for your GoogleApps for Education, but you may need to re-think this plan.

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Reader Comments (8)

Hi Doug, I may be wrong, but doesn't the data plan come with it? I am attending a webinar on 5/19 to learn more. I was at a meeting on Friday and saw one, they were nicely designed, better than a netbook (IMHO). I also believe they can run flash. If anything, I am going to get a couple to put in our classrooms before any significant investment. Hopefully, after the webinar it will be a little more clear. We are considering cloud based apps in the distict and if students can run apps via a browser, I dont think there is really much that much more control needed over the actual device. Stay tuned!

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

Google is not that into you either. Also, comment spam above from Essay Writers.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Doug,

My initial thoughts re: the chromebook were the same as yours, however if the data plan/built in 3G is included in the price, then that's a netbook of a different color. When I consider the number of students in my district that do not have internet access at home, I can’t fully dismiss an option that would help bridge this part of the “digital divide.” That said, I'm not fully sold, but the webinar Jen mentioned above seems worth looking into before dismissing Google’s latest attempt to take over the world.


May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Google is saying that Chromebooks run flash ( first bullet). My question is how does the warranty (3 years included) of the Chromebook stack up to the netbook option? Are fully functional machines for three years worth double the cost?

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Though I like the point you make about price, I would commend Google for trying. I am curious what maintenance benefits they offer. Being a one to one school comes with more cost than just access. If you own the machine, doesn't that make you responsible for keeping it running. (more tech staff for instant repairs to machines acting out)
Throwing in a side argument...why compare it to your tech budget? How much do students spend on lunch in a month? (more or less than 20 dollars) I guess my question would be is there a better way to fund a project to achieve a one to one school?

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I have no data to back this up but...
...what if Google was looking to have the students pay for the machines and not the schools? It seems to me that a parent would much rather see $20/month over $500 all at once. I do agree that a three year lease seems too much, but if I get one of these for my sixth grader or 9th grader, they are pretty much set for their middle school / high school time (i would likely buy a real laptop for a high school senior, and assume they would take that to college).
Note to Google - develop a good, robust learning management system for attendance, grades, assignments, exams and texts, blogs, etc and you may convince schools to buy...

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Wow... it adds up quickly! Sounds like a good deal until you put it all together!

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGalvin

Hi Jen,

Thanks for the heads up on the seminar. I'm registered now as well. All things will become clear.

Sorry, it seems it is Java, not Flash, that the Chrome netbooks won't run.

We are moving cloud-based as well, but I am worried about the wireless infrastructure needed to be COMPLETELY online. I guess my point is why not a device that can do both the cloud AND machine-based stuff?


Hi Tom,

Google not into me? You're breaking my heart!

I whack the spam as soon as I see it. Thanks for pointing it out.


Hi Jennifer,

Yes, if 3G is part of the $20 price, it would be a good deal, especially to offer parents (assuming we could meet CIPA standards for filtering since we would be providing the Internet access as a district.) Hoping these and other questions will be answered tomorrow!


Hi Dana,

Good point on 3-year warrantee. Not sure right off hand what this would cost on an HP or Dell mini. But something to factor in in the TOC for sure.


Hi Chris,

I am not convinced there would be more maintenance on a netbook with DeepFreeze installed than with a Chrome. The idea of instant software updates is great, though. Good point.

My only point in looking at this cost in relationship to my total tech budget is simply to point out that 1:1 is still not realistic even with this model.


Hi Kenn,

Parents (not real good consumers) might be the market for this, but that is not what it sounded like. Again. all the major computer companies offer some kind of financing plan.

Moodle as an LMS doesn't do it for you?


May 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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