The 267,000 Windows 7 based netbooks that the NSW Government has started rolling out to high schools will come pre-installed with open source software.
The initial roll out that began today will see the 70,000 Year 9 students in NSW schools each receive a Windows 7 enabled Lenovo IdeaPad S10e by the end of this year.
Over the next four years, each Year 9 student will receive one of the devices as a gift, which they can keep once they have left school. A total 267,000 netbooks will be handed out over the course of the program, which is part of the Rudd Government’s $2.2 billion Digital Education Revolution.
Many spokespeople from the free and open source software community feel that a Linux-based operating system would have been a better choice for students in Australia, but the netbooks will be pre-installed with a variety of open source software.
Even so, open source consultant, Jeff Waugh, said that while putting computers in the hands of high schoolers is a fantastic step forward, many in the Open Source industry and community are disappointed that the NSW DET chose to use Windows 7 as its platform.
“The NSW DET didn't take this opportunity to leap into the future with a platform that encourages sharing, collaboration, ingenuity and learning,” he said.
Although other States and Territories are yet to announce comparable plans, a Microsoft Australia spokesperson said the company is confident that others will follow suit and roll out Windows 7 enabled devices to students as part of the Digital Education Revolution.
Waugh agrees that this is likely.
“Now NSW has done it, I'm sure other states will continue to see Windows as the 'safe option' — but perhaps we'll see a bit of classic state-vs-state competitive innovation strike Victoria, Queensland or South Australia,” he said.
A spokesperson from the ACT Department of Education and Training said that the ACT does not have any comparable plans in place at the moment.
Waugh said the roll out sent a strong message to the open source software community.
“As ever, those of us keen to see open source platforms succeed in desktop deployments must work harder to remind ICT decision makers that another path exists and that in many cases its benefits outweigh the perceived risks,” he said.
“There was a slam dunk to be had with NSW DET — they were certainly looking seriously at Linux platforms — but vendors didn't provide the answers or comfort they were looking for.”