Most people know that I'm a big proponent of netbooks in school. Cheap, easy Internet access with basic productivity and communications software is more than enough for the average student and 95% of what he or she might need to do, making the purchase of high-end Mac hardware a waste of money. However, the new 13" MacBook Pros announced today at the Worldwide Developer Conference provide a nice option for the other 5% of school applications that can benefit from faster hardware and Apple's multimedia software ecosystem.
At about $1200 (presumably less for educational institutions, although the Apple Store remains down as of this writing), the new MacBooks aren't cheap by any means, but would make for highly portable media machines in a music, art, graphics, or journalism class. The new design, incorporating speedy processors and all of the features that have evolved in the 15- and 17-inch aluminum MacBooks, provide durable, environmentally friendly laptops with solid graphics and slick multi-touch features.
Assuming $1100 for educational pricing, the real question is are the laptops, despite their innovative features, worth the price? I'm inclined to think they are in the right settings, where content creation is king and student can benefit from easy portability. The 13" white MacBooks have represented a sweet spot in terms of weight and features; the switch to aluminum and long-lived integrated batteries (7 hours, or the length of a school day) improves upon this.
That being said, I can't imagine outfitting a 1:1 program with these laptops, even in a well-heeled district. However, they seem to represent an improved value proposition for Apple assuming that OS X satisfies student requirements.