TechCrunch has an article reporting that Apple will sell a sub $1,000 iMac for education. At first I thought "cool," this is Free Technology for Teachers after all so you would probably expect that from me. Then I read the short article and learned that the iMac Apple is proposing to sell to the education market is a stripped-down version of the consumer iMacs. And if the comments on the article itself and on Twitter are any indication, educators are excited about this news. I, however, am not so excited.
While the education version of the iMac is sure to be fine for most school applications, the fact that Apple can sell a watered-down product and schools will eat it up (get it? because it's Apple, okay bad pun) reflects a bigger problem. Why do companies like Apple (they're not the only ones who do this) think they can sell a watered-down product? Because schools continue to buy them. Why does US society think it's okay to scrimp on spending for education? My contention is that we allow it to happen by getting excited about buying watered-down products.
Updated for emphasis: This is not a criticism of Apple specifically, in fact it's not meant as a criticism of any company. My criticism is of "us" as educators who get excited about inferior products and of U.S. culture in general that thinks it is okay to scrimp on education spending.
Editor's note (yes, same guy who wrote the two paragraphs above): I fully realize that I am a walking contradiction by complaining about buying watered-down hardware while spending all of my days looking for free software and Web 2.0 services. The only thing I can say is, I will and do spend money for good hardware when I need it.