Scamming school districts

March 6, 2009 § 4 Comments

Is there some reason school districts weren’t in the loop on this? Palm, in case you hadn’t heard, is discontinuing their handheld line. Now, whether you think handhelds are a good thing or not, understand this – they’ve been pushed at school districts for a number of years as the solution to not having enough computersEvery student can have a handheld computer!  If you’re in education you remember the pitches.

In recent years, handhelds have been the solution for a number of things, from testing to evaluations of teachers, which are two of the things my district is heavily invested in.  Over the past two years, we’ve purchased a number of Palms for our K-2 teachers to conduct reading assessments, and for every campus administrator to enable them to electronically do walkthroughs and evaluations on teachers.

As recently as September 2008, we were purchasing Palms from our vendors with nary a word from them about Palm’s discontinuation of handhelds (the only products listed on the Palm website are smartphones, and only ONE model runs the same Palm software that is on our handhelds).

So whose fault is it that school districts didn’t know about this?  Did Palm neglect to tell anyone so that they could sell their remaining stock of handhelds?  Did the vendors hold off on saying anything for the same reason?  Palm’s CEO confirmed that they would not be keeping up with handhelds in this interview published in December 2008, but how long beforehand did they know?  I know it’s all business, and that in this economy people will get any business they can, and way they can, but shame on them for not letting schools in on the secret so that we could start planning sooner.

With school districts being so heavily invested in this techonlogy, they (we) will need some time to plan for a transition to another way of doing the things we do with handhelds.  As it stands, we are scambling to purchase Palms from any of our vendors in case we need extras over the course of the next year while we’re planning to transition to something new.  And we’re being killed on the price.

Since the beginning of the school year, the price on a Palm Tungsten E2 has gone up $30 per unit for our school district.  Since we’re so heavily invested in the technology, we’re willing to pay the premium for obsolete technology.

What we should start doing, as school districts, is demanding that the companies we do business with transition themselves to a more ubiquitous form of software that isn’t tied to a specific platform, and currently, web based would seem to be the way to go.  As Miguel points out in his post about the same subject,

Why spend precious funding on a handheld device for one vendor’s assessments when I can get a netbook running Windows 7 that I can manage and teachers can do so much more with?

When it comes time to purchase new software in the future, we’ll definitely be looking at something that’s web based, or at least something that can be used on multiple platforms and pieces of hardware.


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§ 4 Responses to Scamming school districts

  • I can’t help but agree with your perspective. A follow-up post appears here:


  • Tom Hoffman says:

    Palm became a dead end because their OS and devices were tied together, and their OS was obsolete the day it was written. Palm handhelds were the walking dead long before you started buying them.

  • Scott says:

    I don’t know if I buy that logic. By your calculations, then, isn’t the Mac a dead end because of the tie between the hardware and software?

    I don’t know if I really buy the whole “open source is better” argument either. I will point you to this post by Tim that I think is right on the money. Mameo may be open platform, but I don’t see vendors running to embrace it. Even Wireless Gen is only supporting one product that currently runs this OS. I still think it’s the wrong direction, and I think they’ll lose business because of it, unless they can “spread the wealth” and port their program (which is still an excellent product, IMHO) to a variety of devices.

  • Tom Hoffman says:

    The difference between Palm and Apple is that Apple has been able to successfully transition between different versions of their own operating system and hardware platforms. They’re in a league of their own in that regard.

    It has been clear for years that there would never be a successful new version of the PalmOS — there hasn’t been a major new release since 2002. 2002! If the end of the line is a suprise to you, you haven’t been paying attention

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