The blogosphere has been buzzing with MacWorld rumors and I have to admit that I can't wait for January 15th myself. As much as I love Kubuntu and Linux in general, OS X has some built-in features (iLife, in particular) that are increasingly attractive. Similarly, while many Apple products are too pricey for mainstream Ed Tech applications, I'm in the market for something thin, light, and relatively powerful. MacBooks are certainly a viable option here and the idea of a Mac ultraportable has a lot of appeal.
My personal interests and computing requirements aside, however, I'd really like to see something that isn't too pricey for those mainstream Ed Tech applications noted above. The same iLife applications that are drawing me towards the Mac camp in many ways are also mighty attractive to our art and music teachers. Mac Minis aren't bad, but they're still a bit pricey for the features and decent chunks of RAM (as well as monitors, keyboards, and mice) bump the price even higher. Wouldn't a commodity Mac for the educational market, designed to get students easily creating content with cool Mac software and a generally secure, robust operating system be really neat?
The eMac was a step in the right direction, but is long gone. I'd be happy to forgo the design cues that make Mac stores so lovely and I don't need Mac Pro performance. What if the engineering dream teams that gave us the latest generation iMac, though, could turn their attention to a product that would reinvigorate Apple's educational presence? Something that could inspire creativity in students (Have you ever used Garage Band? It could make Milli Vanilli creative.) in a really cost-effective way? Imagine Apple's take on the Asus Eee. This wouldn't be for professional video editing, it probably wouldn't cost $400, and it would probably have to run on smaller profit margins than MacBook Pros. But a small, relatively inexpensive laptop running OS X Lite (strip out some eye candy, leave the slick applications and malware-resistant OS) would be a powerful alternative to other emerging solutions from the likes of Asus and Everex.
No, this won't happen this year, although I have no doubt that Steve Jobs is reading this column right now and already planning his keynote for next year. However, Apple's ability to position itself as a premium brand has served it well in the consumer electronics field and professional media niches. It could also serve it well (and really benefit those of us looking for a variety of smart, differentiated solutions in Ed Tech) to be the "premium Classmate."
I hope Linux comes to dominate this field because I feel that it can really shine here in so many ways. The more alternatives, innovation, and competition the better, though, and Apple has the resources, cache, and wherewithal to build a useful niche in this market, too.