Elementary / Primary / Junior, Feature, High school / Secondary 2, Required, Technology - Written by Elbert Chu on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 16:05 - 1 Comment
Worth Considering: Jolicloud, Popular Education OS, Reaches 500,000 Users
by Elbert Chu
With tons of new software vying for educator attention, one cog in the wired classroom merits a second look. The OS. Currently, educators K-12 live primarily in an ecosystem of two: Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s Mac (more accurately, the latest is OS X Lion).
Celebrating it’s 500,000 users milestone, Jolicloud OS (pronounced “jolly cloud”), is attracting a loyal education following for its intuitive kid friendly Mac-like interface, affordable PC-based netbook hardware, and the basement discount price of: Free. With all the attention in cloud computer, Jolicloud’s Joli OS is an education friendly cloud OS worth calling home for some schools. One K-12 school, Sotogrande, with 650 kids, leads the way with their laptop program.
The incumbent OS’s, Windows and OS X, have huge drawbacks for operating school networks. We won’t get into the technical nitty gritty here, but here’s some glaring holes for each:
Windows is a mother lode of viruses and security holes that constantly need patching like a sinking ship. Add on all the issues with compatibility and you see why many schools are migrating to Mac world.
Mac, on the other hand, is a tightly controlled ecosystem, so viruses are not a problem. However, expensive equipment is a deterrent for schools with chronically budget-strained schools. Hardware can cost over 70% more.
The Joli OS looks and feels like the iOS that make the iPhones and iPads fun to interact with. You’d never even know that the engine underneath it is the rock0steady Linux Ubuntu, which would be inaccessible to all but the nerdiest, if it weren’t for the work Jolicloud has put into creating the slick user interface.
The Paris, France-based Jolicloud is barely two years old, but is more than just walking and talking, it’s connecting students. The company has a solid financial start with $4.2M in Series A venture funding from a group of investors in July 2009 including Atomico and Mangrove, of Kazaa and Skype fame betwixt them.
Sotogrande International School in Cádiz, Spain has adopted the Joli OS in laptops for its 650 students. Iván Nieves, Director of Technology, says:
“Most schools make choices based on security, firewalls, proxies. They tend to miss opportunity to use the platform of computing to teach kids life long skills…to personalize their environment, to choose the tools they need for their classes and projects.”
Installation of Jolicloud’s OS is so simple, Nieves says, that he has his students bring their new netbooks and install Joli OS themselves in about seven minutes. The latest release even includes integration with Google apps for education and Dropbox.
Which brings us to a problem at schools: Backup. Even the most fastidious adults are guilty of neglecting backups. “Nobody ever backs up when they need to,” says Nieves. Worrying about kids saving and backing up work is taken care of with cloud-based applications and services. All student work is constantly saved while they work.
Another powerful component of Jolicloud is social sharing of apps. For example, when a group of students are working on a science project together, they can subscribe to one another’s installed applications. If one student discovers a useful app, say The Khan Academy for useful classes on physics, other kids in his group will be notified of the find and can likewise install the app. Jolicloud now has over 1,000 apps.
Nieves, ironically a Apple distinguished educator in 2011, says he did the hard work of investigating 16 different linux distributions and chose Jolicloud. Then he got digging around in the messy and highly fragmented market of netbooks to find the best fit of power, value, and durability. He settled on the $250 ASUS Eee PC 1001PX.
Because Joli OS operates with cloud-based services, all the heavy lifting for processing is powered by the cloud. This means even dusty computers and laptops can be brought back to the future with an install of Jolicloud. Also, because the Linux brain is so lightweight, startup is a few seconds versus a few minutes on Windows.
Nieves says Jolicloud helps students, “Increase their IT proficiency and acts as a scaffolding for their classwork.” Jolicloud founder and CEO, Tariq Krim says the OS was just a prelude to much larger aspirations:
This is why for the last 4 months we have been working on building a whole new category of service. We call it internally “the cloud companion” and we are already using the product internally.
We will release it this fall and it will be available as an app on iOS, Android and of course in HTML5. We should open the private beta to some testers this summer.
Interestingly, Jolicloud released their own branded laptop late last year, Engadget did a full review of the Jolibook.
While all this is promising and bodes well for continued Joli OS growth, some clouds might cast shadows over the sunny prospects. First, there’s the question of connectivity. While wi-fi and internet are near ubiquitous, any disruption would mean the end of all the happy cloud goodness. Educators prefer 100% up time. To be fair, this issue would disrupt all of the cloud-based services and applications. Still, Windows and Mac OS’s applications could continue on into the sunset without being tethered to the cloud.
Another potential deterrent for school administrators is navigating the Linux server side implications of security and the initial setup of a Linux/Ubuntu network. Still, with a friendly and quite willing to help community, most system admins would find quick help.
The Bottom Line on Jolicloud’s Joli OS
- Free OS
- Social sharing between students
- Virus and malware free
- Automatic backups with cloud applications
- Quick startup and installs
- Low cost hardware, gives old computers an additional life cycle
- Internet cloud dependent
- Learning curve for system admins switching to Linux
- Tariq Krim from Jolicloud tells us why innovation is being stifled in France (thenextweb.com)
- 5 Cloud-based Operating Systems That Are Still Standing (readwriteweb.com)
- JoliCloud Netbook OS Adds Nice Features in Version 1.0 (shankrila.com)
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