Australian teachers are respected around the world as high quality innovative educators. That is perhaps no more true than in Victoria, where education has benefitted from a forward thinking, inovation encouraging government and Department of Education (named DEECD in Victoria) over the last 5 – 10 years.
But after a change to a conservative government that has a very poor track record when it comes to supporting public education, Victorian teachers are slowly awakening to a very different landscape. Perhaps the most rude awakening has occurred by way of the latest notebook lease offer from DEECD.
Victorian teachers have enjoyed a fantastic notebook lease program since the mid-90s. It has run on a 3 year cycle, and offered a choice of the latest Mac or PC notebooks for a very minimal payment per fortnight. That has all changed this week.
Teachers on the latest leasing round were offered a very lop-sided looking choice. They could lease a new Lenovo laptop with great specs: 4 GB of RAM etc (you know the ones, those black beasts that somehow get bigger and heavier with each new model as every other laptop gets thinner and lighter) OR a white MacBook for $11.50 a fortnight.
Before you get angry about this fact alone, the real kicker for both Mac and PC users is in the fine print that no teachers read and hardly anyone seemed aware of: the new lease terms are for a period of 4 years. Yes, that’s right. The same laptop for 4 years. PC users may want to consider that as they conduct the regular ritual of making a coffee while waiting for their 3 year old Lenovo laptop to boot up, which is constantly plugged in because the battery only lasts 10 minutes before it needs a charge.
But, for Mac users in particular, these are the questions that come to mind:
-How is it that the same model Mac that is being offered in this round for $11.50 is being offered to teachers currently at $7 a fortnight? Especially seeing it has dropped $300 in price since the time of the last rollout.
-How does the department consider it ok to offer teachers an outdated computer that doesn’t even have the specs to run Apple’s current OS, for a lease period of 4 years? (imagine still using the current white Mac in 2016!)
-The Lenovo is only $100 cheaper than the Macbook, so how does that work out to a price discrepancy of $7.50 per fortnight over 4 years!?
As you can imagine, conspiracy theories abound. The department lost its previous Mac loving secretary with the change of government, and many worry that the department techs, who have always tried to pretend Macs just don’t exist, are now having their way and trying to push them out of the system altogether.
TWO SIDES TO THE STORY
Today I have been on the phone to both the head of education at Apple and the head of the notebook leasing program at DEECD. Apple is furious at DEECD’s handling of their product. They would like to know the mysterious formula that shoots out a $799 PC at $4 a fortnight and a $899 Mac at $11.50 a fortnight. They were also hopeful that the department would take on their offer of giving teachers the option of a Macbook Pro for only a few dollars extra. (Apple had originally offered the Macbook Air but this was rejected by the department). From their perspective their product is getting shot in the foot. 22% of teachers signed up for the Mac option, but this dropped to 18% when full information about the cost and the particular model became more widely known. Indeed it is a testament to the quality of Apple products compared to Lenovo that Apple still commands 18% of the market at such an uncompetitive price.
For DEECD’s part, they are arguing that the price rise for the Mac is due to all the extras that come with it. It needs a VGA adapter (quoted on the phone as being ‘about $70′. ‘Um, try $30′ I said), a crystal case and a replacement battery factored into the cost. Why a replacement battery? Because Apple has been upfront with the fact that their battery only lasts 1000 cycles, or approximately 3 years. If you do a 4 year lease, you’ll need to factor in the cost of a new battery for every machine.
Why are we being offered an out of date white Macbook? DEECD say they rejected the Air because the screen size was too small (11″), there was no optical drive and no ethernet cable. They say they rejected the 13″ Pro offer because Apple offered it too late, and it would mean they would have to create a whole new image for those machines. (I’m no tech, but why would you need a new image when it runs exactly the same OS??)
Why has the cost gone up so high for the exact same model machine as teachers are already leasing for $7? My friend at DEECD tried to tell me its not the exact same model. Its a new model that has a larger hard drive and better graphics card. I told him he was being deceptive pushing that line, as the cold hard fact is that, commercially, it is a $300 cheaper machine than the one that was leased out in the last round. He then went on to inform me that the government has more heavily subsidised the Macs in the past to bring their price closer to that of the PCs. That is no longer going to happen, and that is why the price has shot up. Hmmm. Very mysterious indeed. If this is true, why were the Macs originally more heavily subsidised, and why are they now not?? I was assured by him over and over again that there is no conspiracy!
What do you think?