Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on May 19, 2009
K-12 education is a big and growing market for netbooks. The little laptops small size, light weight, and probably most important, low cost, makes them very popular for schools that want to give computers to students without spending a fortune. But turning kids loose with wide-open laptops can be a recipe for all sorts of trouble.
Enter the new Dell Latitude 2100, a netbook starting at less than $400 (and probably significantly less with volume discounts) tailored specifically for the educational market. The hardware is basically a reworking of Dell’s 10” Inspiron Mini, slightly ruggedized to take abuse from the kids, available in an assortment of bright colors, and offered with a choice of a carrying handle or a shoulder strap. One distinctive feature: A big light in the lid that glows if the Internet is active, so if Johnie is updating his MySpace page during math class, the teacher will know he is up to something.
But the real difference is in the software. The Latitude 2100 is designed to be managed, like a corporate PC. Schools can set and enforce policies and lock the systems down allowing administrators to control nearly every facet of use, from time restrictions to blocking the ability to install additional software. The 2100 is also equipped with a wake-on-LAN feature so that units can receive software updates or policy changes while they are being charged overnight. Dell is also offering a 24-unit charging cart (not yet priced) that provides physical security and doubles as a Wi-Fi access point.
Dell is offering the 2100 with a choice of Windows Vista Home Basic (not a good idea), Windows XP, or Ubuntu Linux. Like corporations, school systems can also order the 2100 with a complete software image preinstalled.