I think most of us know that Ubuntu 10.04 launches today. I've been using the betas in both desktop and server environments for a while and have been incredibly pleased. It's fast, it's stable, and has great features and software, not to mention that this is one of Canonical's Long-Term Support (LTS) releases. It's been thoroughly reviewed on ZDNet and elsewhere, with the general consensus being that it will have broad appeal.
Of course, the same could be said of Windows 7 and Server 2008. However, no matter how inexpensive academic licensing is, the various Microsoft ecosystem products aren't free. That is something that definitely can't be said about both. We can argue the value proposition of Windows vs. Linux (and you might as well throw in OS X while you're at it) all day, but the real point is that in Ed Tech, summer is transition time. Is it this summer you're finally moving your desktops off of XP? Finally looking at virtualization? Time to roll out a new SIS or Moodle?
You get the picture. While students are away, the IT folks will play. Well, more like work their asses off, but at least they can do it in relative peace and quiet.
Not only is this arguably Ubuntu's most significant upgrade in some time, but it's literally just in time to test with users and systems before the summer. There are actually some significant advantages to both Windows 7 and Ubuntu; similarly, on the server side, Server 2003/2008 are solid products, but in most cases, Ubuntu Server is highly competitive in terms of features and wins hands down on price (since it's free). Both have large software and support ecosystems and free technical help for either Windows or Ubuntu desktop/server environments are just a Google away.
So why leave Windows (or OS X) behind and switch to Ubuntu? Sometimes, you really shouldn't. If you've invested heavily in Microsoft infrastructures and your Active Directory is running well and students and teachers are interacting via Sharepoint and you've already rolled out Live@Edu, now is probably not the time to move to Ubuntu.
Your Office power users or those reluctant users that you've finally convinced to type a letter home to parents? Probably not the people to switch either. But what if that web server still chugging along on a Windows 2000 server could use a replacement? Do you really need to license Server 2008 to run web applications? Or how about that Moodle server you've been meaning to roll out? Moodle looks no different on Windows than it does on Linux.
How many of your teachers use their computers for nothing but Internet access or running their SMART boards? Ubuntu supports that just as well as Windows, including access to network shares, printers, authentication, etc., all without cost and without anti-malware software.
It's almost May, summer is almost upon us, and chances are that we'll be feeling the pain of budget cuts starting July 1st. Yet in many cases, upgrades must go on. Before those upgrades happen, though, ask yourself if you can still meet user needs with Ubuntu 10.04. Wait a couple days to download it since it will be painfully slow today and then give it a shot. There may be plenty of places where that Windows 7/Office 2010 upgrade is absolutely justified and important to the way your users do business or to particular resources they need for learning/teaching. However, there are probably plenty of places where the latest and greatest (and it really is great) release from Canonical can save you money and hassle in the long run.