AUGUSTA — Hewlett-Packard and Windows 8 might not take the state’s Apple-loving schools by storm, but they’re making a strong pitch to educators who must decide this week which laptops or tablets they’re going to provide to more than 70,000 middle and high school students this fall.
Apple was the sole provider of laptops under the Maine Learning Technology Initiative for a decade before HP won a competition in late April to become the state’s preferred vendor.
Cameron Evans, the chief technology officer for Microsoft Education, acknowledged that Maine educators are accustomed to Apple products but said the HP proposal provides the same tools – and even more – while utilizing a Windows operating system preferred by entrepreneurs.
“This is a journey and we’re committed for the long haul,” Evans said after meeting with education officials at the State House and visiting several school districts.
Evans was in Maine to talk to educators about an HP Pro-Book 440 with Windows 8, which would be fully funded in middle schools as the state’s preferred option under the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. The state will leverage its buying power for high schools, about half of which participate.
While HP won the competition, school administrators can still choose to buy from Apple, which offered a less-expensive iPad tablet and a more expensive MacBook Air laptop. And the state didn’t anticipate that HP would win a majority of the contracts on its first try, said Samantha Warren, education department spokeswoman.
Maine, the only state to provide laptops to public school students statewide, worked with Hawaii and Vermont to negotiate the contract focusing on five different laptops and tablets.
School districts have until Thursday to decide among the options, including an HP laptop at $254 per unit per year over a four-year lease, or the iPad or MacBook Air. Other options include an HP tablet and a CTL 2go Classmate PC.
Evans acknowledged he had his work cut out for him because of educators’ familiarity with Apple products.
He approached his task with both enthusiasm – and a sense of humor. “It’s not about being cool. It’s the geeks who’ve inherited most of the world,” he joked in response to a question about Apple’s cool factor.
And for educators, he had a different message, urging them to be open-minded about the merits of the HP proposal even though they’re more comfortable with Apple. “I would encourage them not to focus on what’s right for you but what’s right for students. We can do not only what they’ve been doing but amazing things they hadn’t even imagined.”