Would you be surprised to find out that there are actually 4 pilot programs going on right now?
I'm still looking for more info on competing programs, but a couple days ago Ectaco psoted a set of promotional photos showing their device in a Russian school. It was too good not to share, and that give me a good chance to talk about the programs in general.
The Russian Federation has a centralized school system, and it's organized on the national level. While this might seem overly large and unwieldy from an American viewpoint, it does have certain benefits. For example, it has the funds to try the 4 different pilots at once; the only educational systems that could afford that in the US would have to organize it on the state level (Maine, for example, and their 1:1 laptop program).
So the 4 pilot programs going on right now are using 4 different devices from 4 companies:
- Ectaco Jetbook Color
- PlasticLogic 100
- Pocketbook Education (based on their 902 ereader)
- Aquarius NE410 (an Intel Classmate model)
I've posted before on the PlasticLogic 100, and I even posted a hands on video. Compared to the one which didn't ship last year, it's a pared down device with few hardware features, and it's using PL's own screen tech.
I've also posted in the past on the Ectaco Jetbook Color and its launch in Russia, as well as a demo video. This ereader is using hardware originally designed by Hanvon with software written by Ectaco. It's the one shown in the photo above.
I haven't mentioned Pocketbook Education since last year. At that time it was based on the same hardware as the Pocketbook 902, with a 9.7" E-ink screen, Wifi, Bluetooth, a microSD card slot, 2GB Flash, but I don't think it has a touchscreen. It's also running a custom firmware with 6 translation dictionaries, note taking, search, ebook reading (of course), and other apps for students.
Note that they had been in a pilot last fall, so at this point they've probably expanded the software to include more features. But I've heard that last year's pilot may have faced some difficulties because publishers wouldn't support the pilot with the needed textbooks. I'm planning to ask about it at CES 2011.
And then there is the Aquarius NE410. So far as I can tell it is the same laptop convertible running Windows 7 as the Peewee Pivot I posted yesterday. The specs are similar and the hardware looks identical.
The pilot programs were just getting started in November, so it's no surprise that there's no news yet. But I do know that this is a pretty big program. 25 schools are taking part, and they are spread across 7 different regions. The device that comes out best in the pilot is planned to be adopted in schools across Russia. That's a few million units sold a year, at a minimum.
As you can imagine, there's an awful lot of money at stake here.
Which would you think is best? I lean towards the laptop, but that's mainly because of the keyboard.