A number of developments have occurred since the conception of the St Ursula's project that make a server-free solution with solid-state devices running remotely hosted applications even more compelling for primary schools.
The St Ursula's project used Google Docs (now re-branded as Google Drive) which, along with 25Gb of personal storage provides word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and forms database applications. These, alongside GMail and Google Calendar constitute a pretty good suite of office applications available free to schools as Google Apps for Education. However, the admin staff in the school I am currently working with are adamant that they want access to Microsoft Office and this was starting to look like the reason the school would shy away from a server-free model. They don't want the Web Apps versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel which come with Office365, they want to run the full versions of these applications.
I was stumped until I spotted a post on the Chromebook Ratings website that reviewed InstallFree Nexus with Microsoft Office. At first I couldn't believe what I was reading, but a quick visit to the Chrome Web Store and two minutes later I was running a full version of Word 2010 on my Chromebook.
Installfree Nexus gives you 60 days free use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint and you will then be able to license the software by upgrading to Installfree Nexus Premium. This gives you:
- Full-fidelity viewing for Microsoft Office documents.
- Seamless integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, SharePoint, Office 365 and other storage services.
- Microsoft Office 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher)
for an academic user's licence cost of $4.99 per month / $49.99 per year.
Even more impressive is the fact that the solution works on Android Tablets, iPads and Chrome devices. Although office applications on a tablet without a decent keyboard sounds like a suboptimal configuration to me.
I demonstrated Installfree Nexus with Microsoft Office to the head and admin staff last Thursday and they were convinced. They will go ahead with Google Apps for Education on Chromebooks for classroom use and Microsoft Office + Gmail and Google Calendar on Chromeboxes for the head and admin staff. An order has been placed for the new remotely-managed wireless network (Aerohive) and we have an official order form with Google for 30 Chromebooks (£266 each) and 3 Chromeboxes (£287 each). I'll keep you posted on the installation and commissioning process over the summer.