M&A Technology is offering 2nd-generation Classmate PCs on its website for $499. Noting that they are available for pre-order now, it's not clear when they will actually ship. However, the ship date is not the problem as I see it. The problem is the price.
$500 is too much for these little netbooks. Don't get me wrong. I love the Classmates and I think the market in Ed Tech for devices like these could be huge in developed markets. However, $300 is a pricepoint at which I could roll these out. $250 is better. $499 for a 9" screen, a Celeron processor, half a gig of RAM, and Windows XP Home (the only option from this reseller) is not going to cut it.
$500 can buy me a mainstream laptop if I do some serious bargain shopping. $700 is an easy price to hit for dual cores and 2GB of RAM these days. Sure, I don't get the rugged features of the Classmate, but for $500, I can live with that.
The Classmate represents both innovation and compromise. Those compromises are well worth it in this market for $300 a piece. Not so for $500. A note to OEMs rolling out Classmates in the next few months: price it right or don't bother. I'll at least take an HP MiniNote for this price.