Last night I mused for a while on my options for fully refreshing the tech at one of our schools. I talked about thin clients, standalone PCs, netbooks, notebooks - the full monty. I have a while to ponder on this one, but what I'm really wondering is if Moore's Law can hook me up with a lot more bang for my buck than I got almost three years ago at the beginning of our lease cycle.
Not once did I mention Apple (which, interestingly, nobody has bothered to point out yet, as of the time of this writing). We don't have many Macs in the building except for a few aging Minis that were never really powerful enough to cut the mustard. We have lots of Macs elsewhere in the district and, while they weren't cheap, have served us well and are well-liked by the teachers and students who use them.
Then, Kaboom! Apple announces some pretty serious refreshes to its desktop line, both in terms of the previously unimpressive Mini and it's already impressive (and commensurately pricey) iMacs. The specs have been well-covered on ZDNet and elsewhere already, so I won't bother with those details.
What I'm wondering is, should these updates to the Mac lineup have me reconsidering my options? Do aggressively-priced Minis make the cut for the standalone PCs I was considering? Do their size and efficiency mean that I should dispense with thin clients and just snag an XServe for management and authentication?
And how about those new iMacs? $1200 (before any educational discounts) for easy-to-deploy all-in-ones that can blow away any of the desktops we've currently deployed with easy content-creation software built in...Hmmmm.
I can't reach the sheer numbers of clients I need at these prices. Even the Minis, once you've added mice, keyboards, and monitors, start adding up. One has to wonder, though, if a careful combination of netbooks for basic productivity applications or less frequent use and Minis and iMacs for constant utilization and more serious content creation, respectively, might not make more sense than a strictly PC or thin-client scenario.
So are they game-changers? The short answer is maybe. Part of the answer depends upon the kinds of educational discounts we might expect on these systems. Part also depends on user acceptance of any OS other than Windows, although all of the machines in this refresh would be running Windows 7, so a learning curve would be unavoidable. Part also depends on whether I want to abandon quite a bit of work developing Active Directory group policies, scripts to handle imports and exports from our SIS, etc.
I did say yesterday that all options were on the table. I think I better put Apples back on the table, too, as the company really looks to deliver a fair amount of value in their desktop offerings. True, there aren't any budget basement models, but the value proposition for included hardware and software is finally to the point where Apple is at least worthy of consideration in Ed.