I wasn't really expecting it. She hates computers in general and change in particular, using computers for simple communication, Internet research, and basic productivity tasks. She didn't like Fedora or OpenSUSE during her brief sojourn with each over the last few days. So when I tossed on Ubuntu (even after I found that the latest beta worked like a champ on her finicky laptop), I didn't hold out a lot of hope.
Guess what she told me this afternoon, though? "I really like Ubuntu...it's very intuitive and I was able to do everything I needed to do today with no problem. Everything seems to be faster, too. You can leave this one on my computer." This is high praise indeed from a neo-Luddite who finds nothing intuitive about computers.
In fact, it makes Ubuntu something of the holy grail in Ed Tech. If my wife can use it easily (and, in fact, is happy to use it), it installs simply and runs as expected out of the box, and performs well, then Ubuntu is fit for widespread use with a large cross-section of users. Keep in mind that certainly satisfies my teenager's needs, got my three younger kids through their homework tonight, and provides enough software and power to keep folks like me happy.
I know Ubuntu is very mainstream and certainly not lean and mean. It is, however, a snappy performer on decent hardware (the two middle kids both told me that they thought it was faster than Vista had been) and has incredible driver support (the distro picked up my aging printer within 10 seconds and was ready to go automatically).
If you want free, accessible, handy, and well-polished, Ubuntu is the choice for your school, students, and parents. The only hitch, unfortunately, is that a good chunk of educational software is Windows/Mac only. There will obviously be times when Linux simply isn't for you. I can't help but think, though, that if my wife likes Ubuntu, there aren't many people in the world who wouldn't like it.
I'm not dumping my Mac in favor of Ubuntu; I will, though, give very serious thought to Ubuntu for future refreshes. It's just gotten too good to ignore as you evaluate your choices in OS and hardware. Dell has a new 12" Inspiron Mini that runs Ubuntu, by the way. Is that a 1:1 computing solution I smell?