Google has announced that it plans to release an open source operating system over the course of the next year (and would be available for people to install on their netbooks in the second half of 2010).
This is significant for Iowa educators for several reasons, not the least of which being that with the Google Data Center coming to Council Bluffs, there is potential for greater partnerships and grants for Iowa schools. First, it further signifies Google's desire to be the computing solution for everything. Forward-thinking would be for Iowa schools to look beyond Microsoft products to Google as "software students need to know for the workplace".
Even more important, open source technology has been the mythical answer to the problem of high costs. Schools that have been reluctant to purchase computers that have a $1000+ price tag wouldn't be as resistant if the price was $200. But while advances in netbook technology get us very close to that reality, there is a lot of resistance to venturing into open source software. To install free linux on your school's netbooks would save the district substantial money, but it takes quite a bit of expertise in linux to overcome the lack of software support.
That perhaps changes with Google. It remains to be seen how much support Google would offer in terms of automatic updates and security patches and such, but this will get more than one technology coordinator in the state to rethink the possibilities of open source.
And finally, there is Google's message that all applications on the OS will be web-based, thus running on every possible platform out there. We've seen the movement to web-based software, be it blogging or wikis or Google Docs for some time now, but while I'm not sure everyone will be switching over to Chrome OS in the next 5 years, this can't help but accelerate the movement to web-based software.
The end result? Software could get cheaper for schools. Drastically. And soon.
One more reason to stoke the 1:1 conversations.