This weekend, I asked if Windows 7 was good enough to actually justify the cost when good, free alternatives (ranging from existing Windows XP/Vista installs to Ubuntu) were readily available. The responses, not surprisingly, were mixed (to put it diplomatically).
My two primary computers are a Mac and an Ubuntu desktop, but this summer will definitely see a thin-and-light laptop purchase as we shuffle computers in the house (I won't start on the parallels between hand-me-downs and a tech refresh); we're making some moderate number of purchases for the schools as well. While most of the school purchases this year won't be affected by Windows 7 (we're buying Classmates and Macs, largely), my personal purchase will be, and 7 will certainly factor into decision-making for lots of people spending ARRA money.
I won't restart the 7 vs. everything else debate; as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on the value of 7, especially as we try and stretch those ARRA dollars as far as we can before falling off the funding cliff in two years. However, I got up early this morning to work on some documentation. It's fairly sophisticated, with formulas, a variety of formatting, and, frankly, the kind of stuff that makes you really grateful for a good secretary.
I don't have a secretary, unfortunately, so I do all my own word processing and desktop publishing. Suffice to say, this was not the sort of document for which Google Docs was created. It's also the sort of document that is a lot easier in Word 2007/2008 than it is in OpenOffice.
Regular readers will know that's not an easy statement for me to make. Not only am I a huge fan of Google Docs, but am an avid supporter of OpenOffice. They're free and they both work wonderfully. Why wouldn't I be a fan? I remain convinced that both Docs and OO.org will satisfy the needs of 90-95% of students and staff, the former allowing the added benefits of online collaboration and easy access to saved documents, regardless of location.
However, Office 2007 (even more so that 2008) is an incredibly good productivity suite. All of the secretaries in my district who started the year using OpenOffice (at my request) have moved to Office (at their request). This isn't for lack of trying, either. Every single one was a great sport and learned OO.org well. They were very functional in the suite, but Office 2007 made the harder jobs easier and faster. The learning curve, in fact, wasn't the issue; all of the secretaries had been using Office 2000 or 2003, so also had to climb a curve to use 2007.
Students in K-8 have no need for this sort of sophistication. I could argue that there isn't a need to spend the money on licensing for most 9-12 students and budget-conscious college kids can get the job done in OO.org, as well. However, even I can't deny that Office 2007 is worth the money, at least for a subset of users, as I look over at the document I was creating when I started this post, not in OpenOffice, not in Google Docs, but on a spare PC using Office 2007 because it was the right tool for the job.