Not long ago, I wrote a post concerning what I saw as a high price and somewhat limited value for Dell's new educational netbook, the Latitude 2100. It seems, however, that a lot of school districts disagreed. According to a brief on Yahoo News, "more than 500 U.S. school districts have purchased the Latitude 2100, which was launched just last month."
I'm still not convinced of the value of this particular incarnation of netbook, but I am convinced that we're at a significant tipping point in terms of 1:1 computing. Not only are stimulus funds pumping quite a bit of money into the system, but netbooks in general (from the cheapest Asus to a loaded convertible Classmate) are so inexpensive that schools can afford to deploy them in large numbers.
While computer labs have a lot of usefulness and can be scheduled such that they are fully utilized throughout a day, a small, rugged laptop that a student can access anytime, anywhere can be a real game-changer. At the same time, schools are increasingly looking at how students can integrate computers into classroom work, rather than merely having "computer time." This, of course, begs for 1:1.
It remains to be seen who comes to dominate 1:1 computing in schools, but there is plenty of room for competition and innovation in this segment.