I have been predicting for some time that a class set of computers will soon be cheaper than the equivalent pile of textbooks. Now I’ll put a date on it. Christmas 2010.
Today Google announced ChromeOS, an operating system for netbooks and other small, cheap devices. They are showing it off now, but make it clear that they have another 12 months of work before it will be ready for sale giving away to the general public.
Why is this such a big deal? Because it’s designed from scratch for computers with tiny processors, no hard drives, very little memory and therefore a very low price. It will simply become so much cheaper to supply information to students in an online format than a paper one; something you might bear in mind if you have been thinking of buying into a new textbook scheme next year.
Update December 2012: Well I got that wrong! First it took until 2012 before cheap Chromebooks came out. Second, they have been completely eclipsed by tablets. We can now see that iPads, in particular, are killing textbooks and the rate of slaughter will increase sharply this year.