Google debuts Lenovo ThinkPad x131e, the first Chromebook just for schools

Google debuts Lenovo ThinkPad x131e, the first Chromebook just for schools

Summary: Are Chromebooks the future of the classroom? Google is says it is serious about the education market and now Lenovo has the hardware to match.

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The first Google Chromebook to be specifically aimed at school children, the Lenovo Thinkpad X131e Chromebook, has been launched in the US.

The ruggedised $459 (£295) device is designed to handle the rigours of school life and will be exclusively available to the education market

Lenovo Chromebook
The Lenovo Thinkpad X131e Chromebook will only be available to schools

The 1.8kg Chrome OS machine is kitted out with a reinforced cover and hinges, rubberised edges and corners, and a battery life of 6.5 hours, which should just about last for a full school day. It is powered by an Intel Celeron processor and comes with 16GB of built-in storage to compliment the 100GB offered through the Google Drive cloud platform for two years. 

It also has an 11.6-inch display and a webcam, and also boasts ports including three USB, an ethernet, an HDMI and a VGA. Samsung, Acer and HP have released machines running the Chrome OS operating system but up until now none have been targeted specifically at the education sector.

Google has very high hopes for Chromebooks in the education.

"I think the Chromebook for the Lenovo ThinkPad is the most interesting one so far," Google global education evangelist, Jaime Casap, told ZDNet.

The company announced earlier this month that 2,000 schools are using Chromebooks in the classroom, although it would not say how many of those were paid for by the schools. 

He said school children of all ages can use Chromebooks in the classroom and at home as a learning tool for doing research and collaborating with classmates using the preinstalled Google Apps for Education, such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar.

Casap said IT administrators can roll out Chromebooks in schools using the web-based management console which allows them to set up and manage users, apps and policies across a fleet of Chrome devices. "It doesn't matter which device a sixth grader logs into; they're going to get the experience set up for that sixth grader," he said.  

Many key functions on the Chromebooks now work offline but in order to get the most out of the devices a reliable internet connection is required. "We need good broadband in our schools even with the offline capabilities," said Casap. "We have to look at broadband the way we look at electricity, cooling and heat. It's part of our infrastructure now and we have to build it."  

Topics: Google, Hardware, Operating Systems, Education, Google Apps

Sam Shead

About Sam Shead

Sam is generally at his happiest with a new piece of technology in his hands or nailing down an exclusive story. In the past he's written for The Engineer and the Daily Mail. These days, Sam is particularly interested in emerging technology, datacentres, cloud, storage and web start-ups.

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63 comments
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  • It's the battle of the business models

    Google is having great success with Android, and is positioning Chromebooks as an alternative to the traditional laptop. They are pushing Google Docs as a low cost alternative to MS Office for businesses and schools. It is an entirely different business model than the traditional software licensing model that MS uses. Google is still laying the groundwork for Chrome OS and Google Docs as a full fledged business solution, but they seem to have most of the elements in place. Speaking as a chess player, I enjoy watching Google position their pieces and lining up for an attack on several fronts.
    krossbow
    • These are a FAIL

      You can't do state or in house testing(NWEA etc).

      Therefor you still need lab's of PC's.

      Same problem as ipads, but that doesn't stop any k12 from handling them out like candy.


      These have a use in areas, but schools are union dumb and to PC and it's not "fair" unless every kid has the same thing.
      everss02
      • Chromebooks can't do state or in house tests? So what?

        Education isn't about tests, it's about learning, collaborating, communicating, creating and exploring. Chromebooks and the web are perfect for that. The money you save on Chromebooks will enable you to afford a lab of PCs or a bank of notebooks for testing, but please don't base your students' education your hardware choices on tests.
        johngthomas
    • RE: "They are pushing Google Docs as a low cost alternative to MS Office"

      Google is also porting QuickOffice to the Chrome browser on Chrome OS:

      http://techcrunch.com/2013/02/22/google-ports-quickoffice-to-native-client-for-chrome-will-launch-with-full-editing-features-in-about-3-months/

      Will this be coming to Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux in the near future too?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Flagged?

        OK, here's more.

        At a time when Microsoft is pushing a subscription model for Microsoft Office and is including onerous licensing terms in the product's EULA, Google is including office suite functionality via QuickOffice in their Chrome web browser.

        Google's timing could not be better.

        P.S. I actually like getting flagged, so bring it on. :)
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Well if QuickOffice will

        run in the Chrome OS then it will run in a Chrome Browser running in Windows. I don't see a need to get it to run natively in Windows. LibreOffice is available in the Chrome store.
        Orlbuckeye76
      • Maybe

        Most features of Chrome OS are available in the Chrome Web Store for both the Chromebook and just recently I read either here or on CNET that there is a program that gives the "taskbar" from the most recent builds of Chrome OS to the Windows version of the Chrome Browser.
        Richard Estes
    • low cost alternative to....

      If this is Google's business model, then they definitely missed out the tiger in the shadows: Microsoft. Microsoft are too, moving to an subscription model for their office tools and too are offering web based tools for free. How can Google compete here?

      You can have an (probably better spec) low end notebook with Windows at the same price as this one. Or cheaper. Besides the cloud based, subscribtion productivity apps from Microsoft, it will also run plenty of software and subscription based services from others -- including all of Google's.

      So why would anyone prefer the Chromebook is beyond me. Make it an $200-$250 device and that will suddenly change everything. Also, reduce the number of manufacturers and variations it has. It is exactly the kind of model that does not work anymore for Microsoft "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks".
      danbi
  • Those poor kids - victims of greed

    I pity those unfortunate students who will grow dumber using google software and Chrome book. Why create a problem that doesn't exist?

    A real laptop running Windows is what these kids require to be competent in the real world. Anything will run on Windows and there are a billion apps available. Why lock them in a platform that is nothing but a joke. Those School authorities who force the kids to use this useless device should be fired.
    Owlll1net
    • Lol

      The only problem is that they are going to fail and hard.
      ingramator
    • As a former teacher

      I tried to use laptops in my classroom, and they were so slow. Sometimes it would take 15 minutes for the laptop to boot up, while other laptops never even worked. You might say that we had old hardware, but the truth is, we just bought them that year. Kids are incredibly quick at ruining computers. All they needed to do once they got on the computer was surf the internet for research. What sense did it make having a bunch on Windows computers that IT had to manage, and could be plagued by viruses. I don't know that Chromebooks are for everyone, but I definitely seem them to be very useful in school (10 second boot up time, no applications installed, no IT needed, no viruses, and nothing but what the kids needed). (I understand engineering, arts, or other specific fields will probably want to stick with a traditional system, but everyone else? Why not!)
      Daniel Blackman
      • Who would flag this comment?

        And why?
        Zogg
      • You must be kidding!!!

        "Sometimes it would take 15 minutes for the laptop to boot up, while other laptops never even worked. You might say that we had old hardware, but the truth is, we just bought them that year."

        - Sorry, thats nothing but a big fat lie or you were misinformed about those laptops or you should a non-IT person who don't have a clue a computing.
        Owlll1net
        • Most schools

          Most schools cannot afford their own IT staff. If Chromebooks are zero or low maintenance devices that's a big selling point.
          dsf3g
          • There are no zero

            maintenance devices. We have Chrome books at my office and they do need maintenance especially OS refreshes after update failures.
            Orlbuckeye76
        • Leave them alone

          Anyone who's owned a computer knows how slow Microsoft is starting up, and how many problems they have. Granted, they don't have so many problems with viruses anymore, but still plagued by problems - long startup, declining performance and sometimes failing.

          I've had my laptop a year and a half and have had to wipe it clean and reinstall windows twice to get it to work. Once was because I installed Microsoft's service pack and the computer stopped functioning. I even learned how to use Linux just to have an alternative when Windows is failing.

          I understand you're a Microsoft fanatic and overlook Microsoft's flaws, based on previous posts. That's fine and all, but to call someone else's post a big fat lie is just plain harassment.
          FreethinkingJeremy
          • Irony

            My Windows 8 laptop boots faster than my ipad 2.
            toddbottom3
        • Probably true, he's misinformed, he's lying or he's an idiot...still...

          If you're honest, you know that anything running windows for a more than a couple of years succumbs to clogged arteries and dementia. I've found that the hardware itself is more than adequate to run one of the linux releases, which allows users to do most of the everyday computing tasks, browsing, letters, photo editing, the odd spreadsheet or slideshow, even some games. If funds are tight, it's a way to take something that's essentially useless and get a few more years of use out of it. Of course, your buddies in Redmond don't want to hear that any more than they want to hear the Chromebooks are actually useful.
          WhatsamattaU
        • Not A Lie

          I have a W7 laptop with the fastest CPU I could get at the time (i7) it cost over $1200.00 at the time, and I have never seen a slower dog. If I want to get onto the internet, I use my Android tablet because I can be on, finished and shutdown again before the W7 laptop boots.
          bigpicture
    • Future is open

      No need to teach/learn obsolete proprietary stuff.
      jnffarrell