A friend of mine and fellow school techie recently mentioned that several vendors have suggested that netbooks simply aren't up to the task of supporting education in school, pushing him instead to purchase low-end notebooks for student needs.
I say this is largely a load of crap designed to keep low-margin netbooks from cannibalizing laptop sales. Are there things that netbooks can't (or shouldn't) do? Of course! I won't think of using them for a media lab or video editing. Photoshop is not a friend of netbooks either. Programming? Graphic design? Probably not.
Netbooks were never meant to be powerhouses, whether they are incredibly cool tablets like the convertible Classmate or polished models like Dell's new Mini 10. They are meant, however, to do about 95% of what the average student or teacher does all day long. Office productivity, web surfing, communications, collaboration, documentation, presentation: these are all precisely the reasons for which netbooks were created. Is there a good reason to spend $600 on a 7 pound notebook when $400 for a 3 pound netbook will facilitate in-class use better?
What will fit better on a student's desk? In a backpack? Around a table with other students? What can be carried easily by students at all grade levels, with or without disabilities? And do we really need 2-4GB of RAM and dual-core processors for typing a report or giving a Powerpoint presentation.
Come on folks...if you're a vendor, sell me what I need. If you're a decision-maker, buy what satisfies student needs. There are times when high-end (or at least middle-of-the-road) desktops and notebooks make a lot of sense. There are many more times when a decent netbook can save money, space, and power. Don't discount them just because Moore's Law has taught us that we need the speediest of the speedy, refreshed every 2 years.