Intentionally or not, Linspire Inc. may be trying to become the “Education Linux” distribution.
The San Diego-based desktop Linux software maker, formerly known as Lindows, Thursday launched a new, low-cost licensing program for schools who wish to install a Linux desktop operating system as an alternative to the more expensive Microsoft Windows operating system.
Through the program, educators will be able to sign up for single copies or per-unit volume license packs of Linspire at special educator rates, starting at $15 per license.
Educators who are interested in the program and would like to receive a free evaluation copy of Linspire should visit this site.
“Desktop Linux is less expensive for schools to buy and less expensive for IT administrators to upgrade,” Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony said.
“Its easy to install and easy for teachers and staff members to learn, and its safe from the plague of viruses and spyware. Desktop Linux is the next-generation operating system that students today will grow up using.”
Linspire has been working closely with school districts since last August through the Indiana Access Program, which uses desktop Linux systems and standard hardware configurations to keep costs low.
Wintergreen Systems Inc. provided the hardware and Linspire the software for Indiana classrooms.
This program aims to provide each high school student in the state with an individual desktop Linux computer for instructional use in each classroom they visit during the day—a potential 300,000-unit deployment over the next several years.
Is this new corporate program a direct spin-off of the Indiana school experiment?
“Not entirely. Linspire has been working on our formal Education Program for some time, but the program certainly ended up being influenced by what we learned while working with the state of Indiana,” Carmony told Ziff Davis Internet via e-mail.
“The program was also fast-tracked to help us respond to the large demand we were seeing from other schools who were contacting us after learning of Indianas success with their one-to-one computing program.”
Linspire provides a complete, stable operating system for students, teachers and administrators alike. It includes all the applications critical to students and educators—including a full file-compatible office suite, Internet browser, e-mail client, graphics and photo editing programs, and Web filtering programs—in a familiar environment based on the Windows look and feel.
The Future of Linspires
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Is Linspire indeed trying to become the “Education Linux”?
“We knew when we started the company that Linux would be very appealing to the education segment because of its significantly lower cost,” Carmony said. “However, I dont think we fully realized to what extent Linux would start being embraced—so fully and so soon.
“Theres no doubt that a great deal of Linspires time and resources are now being spent with the education market. I do think we now have the reputation for being the right Linux for education, just like we do for consumers, and Im quite happy about that.”
Using Linspires CNR (Click and Run) software download tool, administrators will be able to quickly manage applications across an entire school, load applications on multiple workstations with one mouse click, and remotely designate which computers in the network get which applications, the company said.
“We tested a number of Linux distributions and chose Linspire to run our laptop computers, as it had the best support for laptop hardware and the installation process was fast and simple,” said Steve Kossakoski, Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Research at the Great Bay eLearning Charter School in Exeter, N.H. “Linspires GUI is easy to use and there has been little or no training required for teachers or students.”
Students in the Indiana Access Program made the transition to Linux fairly easily, said one district administrator.
“We put our students in a room with Linspire, just to see how they would adapt after using Microsoft Windows,” said Scott Back, Technology Coordinator for Shelby Eastern Schools, outside Indianapolis, Ind. “Guess what? They figured it out right away without any training or special help.”
“Ive toured the schools and seen for myself that it doesnt really make a difference to students what operating system theyre using as long as it can perform how they need it to,” Carmony said. “Students should learn computer skills—not be trained on applications that only run on one specific operating system. The reality is that we have no idea what kind of computers these kids will use when they get out of school—why not branch them out now?”
“So, just like people who are used to using a Mac or Windows computer dont have any problems using Linspire, it works the other way around as well,” Carmony said. “If a student starts out using a Linspire computer, theyll learn enough of the standard language of desktop computing that theyll also be quite comfortable if they end up in the work force upon graduation and find themselves in front of a Mac or Windows PC.”
How did the Indiana school administrators react to moving to a new system?
“Actually, were finding that many of the school administrators are quite unhappy with what theyve had to use in the past, particularly in regards to the high cost and virus problems,” Carmony said.
“Many are actively looking for an alternative, and they are very happy and energized to learn that a viable option not only exists but is being proven to work well in other schools, making it easier for them to take the plunge and give Linux a try.”
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