Microsoft pushes Vista for school laptops

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Microsoft pushes Vista for school laptops

Microsoft is backing Vista as its platform of choice for the Federal Government’s student laptop project, despite XP’s dominance in the netbook market.

The software giant told iTnews that it was participating in about a "half dozen" bids with OEMs and systems integrators for the state rollouts.

Its education director, Neil Jackson, said Microsoft would back bids that used either Vista or XP laptops but would "love it" if the deployments ran off the Vista operating system.

"We're absolutely about Windows Vista as the best platform locally to be loaded onto the client," Jackson said.

"There have already been significant orders placed on our OEMs to run Vista for education [purposes]."

Jackson cited a deal last week in which the Victorian Department of Education will roll out 10,000 Lenovo and Acer netbooks to schoolchildren as an example. it had "embraced Vista", Jackson said.

And he said that Microsoft would seek to install software on the netbooks rather than push applications into the "cloud" to save money.

Late last year, a Microsoft spokesperson suggested the cloud may be an option to reduce licensing costs. It was speculated recently that Windows licensing could make it difficult for OEMs to deliver a laptop within the unit-price limits set out in requests for proposals. But Jackson said that the software component of the bids "is only a small part of the overall cost endured by the partners".

That response is unlikely to sate the open-source community, which is pushing for more of its software in schools as part of the laptops for schools project.

Speaking to iTnews as part of his recent visit to Australia, Sun's global chief open source officer Simon Phipps said that using "unnecessary" proprietary software in schools is a waste of money and a situation that's long overdue for reform.

"Giving every child a netbook buys you nothing if the software schools are incentivised to install then takes away [students'] freedom," Phipps said.

He called on education IT service providers and federal and state governments to embrace open-source technologies.

He said there is a possibility that the Gershon Review might shine a light on how much taxpayers spent on proprietary tools when there is a free or open source alternative.

But he said he was aware of the challenges of turning the education sector on to open-source platforms.

"Things like electronic whiteboards in schools are endemic and create a dependence on Windows software," Phipps said.

Microsoft's Jackson said that he believed the "on-costs" of moving away from a Windows environment in schools could prove challenging.

"The familiarity benefits of Windows can't be overestimated. The retraining that would be required to transition to open source far outweighs the benefit," Jackson said.

"We continue to deal with all state departments to try and simplify our licensing and make it easier to acquire and deploy our technology."

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