[LINK] Microsoft on the outer of schools funding
brd at iimetro.com.au
Thu Dec 4 09:08:21 EST 2008
not all the people making comments on this article agree with linux over MS
Microsoft on the outer of schools funding
December 02, 2008
The Australian IT
IT'S one of the best Christmas parties the IT industry could ask for,
but Microsoft may not score an invitation.
Tomorrow, all eyes will be on the NSW government tendering website as
the computers-in-schools program finally kicks off.
Microsoft is set to be the biggest loser. Compared with wireless and
hardware vendors, it is bound to lose a large chunk of revenue over the
next few years as NSW moves to reduce software costs.
NSW is the largest recipient of federal Government funding for round one
of the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund (NSSCF) but its months
of haggling for extra money to manage the machines led to a stalemate.
States and territories were initially offered $1000 a student to buy
computers but this was deemed insufficient. NSW said it required an
additional $245 million on top of the $56 million over five years it was
promised, while some projections showed there would be additional costs
of $3 for every $1 spent on a machine.
The federal Government finally caved in and allocated an additional $807
million to the national fund.
As a result, the rollout would cost $2245 a student, NSW Education
Minister Verity Firth said. All up, NSW will receive $256 million.
NSW wants to offer 197,000 secondary school students wireless-enabled
netbooks that would possibly run on open-source software such as Linux.
In its submission to a review of the fund's additional financial
implications, the state provided an alternative costing model based on
open source software.
NSW said using open source software meant zero cost, as opposed to the
$405 it typically spent on each machine.
In fact, the review concluded $200 per computer should be sufficient to
cover the cost of software to support the computers. It said major
software vendors had indicated willingness to negotiate more competitive
pricing for software licences in light of the expansion in computers in
schools resulting from the fund.
"Consequently, it might be possible to make sizeable savings against
this notional allocation. The alternative option of open source software
would also allow schools to achieve lower costs," the review, dubbed the
Grimes Report, said.
A NSW Education Department spokesperson declined to confirm if the
expression of interest would ask only for netbooks using open source
software. The department intended to release a call for expressions of
interest on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Ms Firth said the aim was to
have at least half the classrooms equipped with wireless access by
mid-July, before the rollout of the netbooks.
The wireless network rollout will cost about $60 million, while the
netbooks would cost about $98 million.
Each netbook would cost $500 and the wireless network was expected to
come in at less than $290 to support each machine.
However, the architect of the open source netbook plan said he would
like to see both models, including Windows, included as part of the call
for expressions of interest.
"I would ask for both options - Microsoft Windows and open source," NSW
Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said.
"This way we can really compare and see who can give our students real
value for money."
Either way Microsoft will be in a pickle: it would have to drastically
cut the cost of software licences to offer value for money if it wanted
to do business with NSW, or risk a generation of youngsters growing up
on a large dose of open source software.
A Microsoft Australia spokesperson said the company welcomed
competition, as it provided one of the best education bases.
"We believe learning on the Microsoft platform would best equip school
students with the necessary skills and experience for their future.
"Microsoft provides outstanding value, reliability and security in a
familiar and easy-to-use operating environment. It also gives users the
greatest choice, through the diversity of applications and learning
technologies, available across a wide array of devices, as well as
access to support from Microsoft's 14,000 Australian partners," the
A possible frontrunner for the netbook tender is Intel's Classmate PC,
distributed locally by ASI, which sits on NSW's desktop and notebooks
panel. NSW, Victoria and Queensland have been trying Classmate PCs for
months and results of their trials are due to be reported IN January, an
Intel spokeswoman said.
Classmate PC, which comes with educational software, can run on Windows
XP OR various Linux distributions.
Meanwhile, the other states and territories have welcomed the extra funding.
"The Queensland Department of Education, Training and the Arts expects
to receive additional funding for round one in the order of $1500 for
each of the computers, subject to finalisation of the COAG agreement," a
department spokesperson said.
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett said the on-costs to fund the computers
in schools program for the state were still being worked out with the
"Tasmanian students have started receiving computers and it is expected
that more than 40 per cent of round one funds to be used before the end
of 2008 will be ready for the start of the 2009 school year," he said.
All Tasmanian government schools purchased from a central supplier panel
that had Acer, Lenovo and Apple computers. Mr Bartlett said. Schools
could select from a limited variety of desktop and laptop models.
South Australian government schools are finalising their orders for
about 4400 desktops and laptops, which are due to be completed by
Wednesday, a state education spokesperson said.
A Victorian education department spokesperson said the state had $185.7
million to spend on the computer program.
In the ACT, 13 schools have received their round 1 allocation, and a
number will receive their computers by the time the 2009 school year begins.
brd at iimetro.com.au
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