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University Of Texas Colleges Require Students To Have "Apple Laptops"

University Of Texas Colleges Require Students To Have "Apple Laptops"

by , 9:30 AM EDT, April 22nd, 2002

How many times have we heard about a school or a university requiring its incoming students to have a Windows laptop? The tables have turned, at least at a couple of colleges at the University of Texas. The Austin American Statesman, the only daily in Austin, is reporting that the colleges of education, fine arts, liberal arts and natural sciences, all colleges within the University of Texas, will be requiring that their students have an iBook or PowerBook. According to the article, the machines will be required to run Mac OS X, Microsoft Office, and other specific software.

Students who have their own Mac laptops are fine, but if they don't, they will have to buy new models. The university is offering a bundled deal on a new 500 MHz iBook for US$1000. The units will include AppleCare, and the required bundled software.

The University of Texas has a long history of being Mac friendly, with many Macs used throughout the campus.

From the Austin American Statesman:

Beginning this fall, the University of Texas will require students entering its teacher preparation programs to have laptops, and if they can't get the right machine, they'll have to buy it from Apple Computer Corp.

The move, which will be formally announced Monday, first will affect about 300 students, mostly juniors and seniors, in the colleges of education, fine arts, liberal arts and natural sciences. Many more eventually will be affected by the new program, which will require students to have a university-approved Apple laptop running specific software.

Apple will sell the baseline laptop for $1,000 to eligible students, including those entering the teaching programs and about 1,700 more enrolled in the College of Education.

Many students, including some who prefer PCs to Apple, are fuming.

"I think it's stupid," said Eunjung Kang, a sophomore studying to be an elementary school teacher. "I don't understand why they would require us to buy something we could do without. And on top of that, why make it an Apple?"

Kang does not own an Apple laptop but now will have to get one before she graduates. Students who own or can borrow a laptop meeting the university's minimum specifications do not need to get a new one, the university said. Students cannot share the laptops.

Administrators say the laptops are needed to help future teachers become more computer proficient and incorporate technology into their instruction. They said students who cannot afford the computers will be eligible for financial aid to cover the cost.

Apple was chosen because it offered steep discounts for students and agreed to provide technical support and training. The company also has a strong presence in schools, said Larry Abraham, associate dean for teacher education, who backs the idea.

"We needed to have a single platform," Abraham said. "We didn't want our faculty spending a lot of time figuring out what kind of computer someone in the class is using."

Abraham, who acknowledged the laptop requirement could be controversial, said university officials have answers for students' concerns and that they ultimately will benefit.

"The exciting thing is we're the first teacher preparation program in the country that is making this as a requirement," he said. "That's the place where I see other (schools) will try to follow."

The Apple requirement

  • Model: Apple iBook or PowerBook
  • Operating system: Mac OS X
  • Processor: 500 MHz PowerPC G3
  • RAM: 128 megabytes
  • Hard disk size: 15 gigabytes
  • Connectivity: 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, Apple Airport Cards, 56K internal modem, USB and FireWire ports, external SVGA monitor/ projector output
  • Technical support: AppleCare protection plan
  • Software: Microsoft Office, First-Class, UT student software
  • Cost: $2,500 retail, $1,000 for qualifying students

The article also talks about another college at UT that requires students to have a Windows 2000 laptop, and other issues pertaining to UT's support for computers.

The Mac Observer Spin:

This article offers cause for celebration, at least on the surface. Dig down a bit deeper though, and we see the same sort of wrong-headed thinking that is so often used by bigoted Windows lemmings to justify dumping Macs in favor of PCs. Specifically:

"We needed to have a single platform," Abraham said. "We didn't want our faculty spending a lot of time figuring out what kind of computer someone in the class is using."

How many times have we had that tossed in our face by ignorant PC IT weenies? Certainly it's sweet that the victory goes to the Mac platform, in this case, but it still maintains the fallacy that having but one platform is easier and saves money. Let's be real here - how hard is it to check to see if even a Windows laptop has Office, and a few bits of other software? It's not. Think about it this way: if this article had been reversed, and we were talking about a college that had gone all Windows because having a single platform is better, almost everyone reading it would be up in arms.

On the other hand, there will be fewer support issues for the students and teachers, to be sure, and most of those students will likely be better off in the long run. It's not that we aren't happy about this news. It's good for students, it's good for UT, it's great for Apple, and it's good for the platform. It's certainly pleasant to have the tables turned. Our only complaint is that the perpetuation of the "One Platform RULZ!" myth is never good, even when it benefits the Mac platform.

One last note: How does a 500 MHz iBook with Office, First-Class, and free UT student software cost US$2500 retail? Microsoft Office is sold for something around US$5 to students through most university computer stores around the US, and the iBook itself retails for US$1199, without counting Apple's education discounts. Even the AppleCare shouldn't jack it up to US$2500. We're just nit-picking, though; the students are definitely getting a good deal on that machine.

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