Ubuntu Reaches 220,000 PCs in Schools in Spain

Canonical's recent efforts to promote desktop Ubuntu on the workstations of large organizations have focused primarily on the business world. But perhaps the company's greatest prospects lie in the education channel. That's where 220,000 Ubuntu-based PCs are now running in Andalusia, Spain. Here are the details, and what they say about desktop Linux's viability in the education market.

When it comes to making money by selling support services around desktop Ubuntu, Canonical seems to be most interested in business customers. It has created a Business Desktop Remix spin of Ubuntu targeted specifically at commercial organizations, but has made no parallel effort for the education market. And the Zentyal Summit, where Canonical will have a notable presence next month, is about corporate customers alone.

Taking Ubuntu to School

Yet one of Canonical's greatest success stories so far was set not in the business channel, but in the public schools of Andalusia. That's where Isotrol, a Spanish engineering and technical support company, installed an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution on 220,000 workstations spread across 2,000 schools, according to a report from Canonical.

Canonical provided technical support during the effort in the form of a "Premium Service Engineer." In addition, Isotrol made use of Canonical's Launchpad portal for managing bugs and seeking support, the report says.

The report also mentions concerted efforts to train teachers in the use of the new platform, a move that undoubtedly was key to the success of the project. The deployment of training programs to ease transitions is an important point to remember for any organization interested in deploying Ubuntu, whether in the education market or somewhere else.

Time for Ubuntu Education Remix?

Notably, Isotrol did not install generic Ubuntu itself onto the PCs of the Andalusian school system. Instead, it used the Guadalinex EDU Linux distribution, which is based on Ubuntu but has no direct affiliation with Canonical or the Ubuntu project itself.

While Canonical nonetheless remained closely involved in the initiative in Spain, Isotrol's decision to deploy a third-party distribution tailored specifically at the education market suggests that Canonical might do well to think about creating its own Ubuntu spin designed explicitly for use in schools. That would make Ubuntu a more obvious option for education customers.

Several education-oriented distributions already exist that are based on Ubuntu, of course. The longstanding Edubuntu spin is the most obvious example. But although Edubuntu is an official derivative of Ubuntu, Canonical rarely mentions the project in its promotional material, and there's no evidence that the company has invested significantly in the spin in recent times.

(And for the record, the blatant grammatical error that sits front and center on the Edubuntu home page -- which informs readers that "the Edubuntu project released it's very first Long Term Support (LTS) version" -- is unlikely to inspire much confidence in potential customers searching for an operating system to help children learn. But I digress.)

Maybe it's time for Canonical to create -- and, most importantly, promote aggressively -- an Ubuntu Education Remix similar to the Ubuntu Business Remix that debuted several months ago. The company might then ensure that the success it has enjoyed in Andalusia will not be a one-off affair.
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