During a month in Japan, the Cr-48 was literally nothing more than a flat surface to set my MacBook on. I left my iPad home with the family, and I really wished I had brought that instead of either laptop.
The smartphone/tablet operating systems are much better suited to mobile computing, specifically because they do support local storage. Syncing with the cloud is not the same as dedicating all storage to the cloud. Very, very different. In-browser apps like SourceKit are as close as it gets right now, but as soon as you pull the network connection, even SourceKit gets really flakey. I like SourceKit, but I think the supporting architecture just isn't ready yet.
I can't over-state how much this has made the Cr-48 a non-starter for me.
My full Cr-48 review here: http://wherein.posterous.com/
So the question is, does $20 / month get you connectivity as well? Fingers crossed it includes a data plan sufficient for most student's use, in which case it could be a very economical way for them to get a good mobile data connection without a prohibitive contract.
I'm not saying it's impossible... but I don't think the current education system is ready for that. Explain to the average college student (a non-techie) why the slideshow their professor gave them won't open on their Google laptop.
OTOH, our school is experimenting with lab virtualization, so all you need is the frontend software. I can run full Excel on my iPad, so maybe that's a usable route.
All collaborative lab reports and student assignments were done in google docs as well, everyone pretty much communicates through gmail if they aren't talking face to face as well.
It just depends on how people want to work, many students don't like having to spend all their time in the lab so they use Autodesk Inventor (free for students) over Pro/E Wildfire or Solidworks (in the computer lab). Students still do torrent the MS programs if they have to use them but when they don't they are fine with semi-equivalent free alternatives.
EDIT: I just saw that they provide a crx version of the plugin, so it should be possible.
When evaluating our options we found that students didn't seem to care about Google Docs, Microsoft's online Office tools, etc.
A computer (or iPad or Kindle) can be a great educational tool, but there needs to be serious, thoughtful planning and training before these devices are put into the classroom. I like the idea of getting technology in the hands of kids so that they can experiment and discover (even more so with disadvantaged kids), but I think technology too often gets in the way in the classroom.
How many lessons would be more effective if a teacher walked though things on a chalkboard?
Addendum: I just found a PDF  outlining a iPad pilot program. The only tangible objective it lays out is creating an e-Portfolio. Look at all of the cost and effort required to get there! Perhaps there are compelling reasons to use iPads in the classroom, but too many proposals read just like this.
With this I have access to Office, browser of my choice, can sync my iPod/iPhone/iPad to it, connect it to the TV in my dorm (HDMI), and play WoW.
So in 16 months I've made back the money, and have a generally all around better experience.
My feeling is that the device will be offered for free/mandatory in some universities in order to try to reduce book piracy and make money for the uni.or at least some universities will try this. This also ties well with google books.
If it's something like how cellphones have a monthly cost for X months with an ETF but you really own the device then it wouldn't be as bad. Might even be decent for the poor student with a work study allowance like I had when starting out.
Update: Thinking more on it while watching baseball, I do the same thing for my DVR. No up-front fee or contract, but I have an expensive piece of technology for a low monthly fee. I could buy a Tivo, but this works fine.
There is also the factor of "crap, I somehow missed a payment and now I can't complete my coursework" when colleges are busy trying to get rid of computer labs because "everyone has a laptop".
If a student were to outright buy a netbook using financial aid then those concerns go away.
Again I wouldn't give a crap either way if it were a contract/ETF arrangement but rent to always rent just seems like a bad financial habit to develop early in life.
There are pros to this arrangement. Laptops get stolen all the time at universities and students aren't always known to keep great backups. Being able to log-on from anywhere (in one of those disappearing labs, another student's laptop or your smartphone) and having access to your stuff is a big win.
I think it's interesting and while wouldn't want this to be the only option I can definitely see the benefit of it being an option.
The first is that you wouldn't be fiscally responsible for the full cost if the device was stolen from you. In this case it would be worse than owning out right. As now you're on the hook for the cost of the device you lost at the time you need to pick up another device. Are they going to allow you to rent the second device? Details would be nice.
Also when at a college your college is usually your ISP. And at the one I work at as long as you have access to the classroom then you have access to the network.
I agree with the backups part but that is independent of this particular arrangement as Google Apps works on non-rented devices too. :)
Assuming you're doing most of your work in Google Docs, this wouldn't be a problem. ChromeOS is really just a fancier thin-client, after all.
In fact, for a lot of forgetful/irresponsible students, having their data in Google's cloud is a good way to save their asses from data loss/device theft.
I wonder how much data collection will be built-in to the default installs; how locked-down those installs might be if you are paying them each month; how ads will be integrated into the platform. Seems like Google could make a good bit of money with this.
(With concern about the negative connotations associated with the term/relationship.)
Those third parties can do whatever they want with their property, especially when it comes to free services such as Google Docs, Facebook, Yahoo Mail, etc.
Buyers should note these are cheap because they're going to be tracking your every move. Every site you visit and everything you type will be logged using the autocomplete function as it already is within Chrome.
If you're going to offer an open device (meaning you put your own apps on it, its just a regular machine in the traditional sense) to students and think that they will have some magic incentive to pay for that device - that thinking is flawed - as (even as HNers point out) they can spend money they were planning on already spending on a system they have total control over and more choices WRT its features.
However, if you were to partner and build a knowledge/content delivery platform which was the real value of a device - and the hardware was incidentally delivery mechanism, then you could begin to have something of value.
For example, an OS, apps and content designed to be together and be a part of the curriculum.
I think this is where Khan Academy can really make a revolution - especially if they have support from various directions.
Right now, Khan Academy has content organized by subject - and there is the beginning of a teaching/tracking platform which provides tools for tracking a students progress.
This is the idea that needs to be expounded upon and put onto any of these systems-to-students ideas such as the google laptop.
Google is already going after education and enterprise organizations to provide email and apps-for-domains.
They really need to look at Khan Academy as the vector for really getting into this in a meaningful way.
If we take the idea of Meaningful Use from the medical space, and create Meaningful Education and begin to put a lot of great thought into the education platform - we could change the world of education.
We need real platform development that accounts for the content, context and containers in such a way that we really utilize technology in an augmenting way.
Google's approach with this model is bottoms up - where we need more tops down.
There are far too many assumptions that providing technology without contextual content and tools will foster innovation etc. but really we have not seen a real thought-out approach to this problem.