Gadgets

Google drops Chromebooks down to $99 or less (for education)

Forget Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Google just announced perhaps the best sale of the entire Christmas season, at least as far as electronics and computers are concerned.

Working with DonorsChoose.org, a charity that helps support public education in the U.S., Google is offering its Samsung Series 5 Chromeboooks — a $429 device with management and support — for just $99. And if you play your cards right, that price could be zero.

The catch?

You have to be a full-time public school teacher in the U.S., and you have to set up a DonorsChoose.org account, where you’ll fill out a brief request form. Once that’s complete, an account will be set up on Donor’s Choose, and anyone can come to the site to make a donation. When your funding goal is complete, the Chromebooks will be sent.

A campaign for Chromebooks on DonorsChoose.org

Above: A campaign for Chromebooks on DonorsChoose.org

I checked the contest rules, and there’s nothing that says educators can’t effectively purchase Chromebooks for $99 just by donating to their own funding campaign. A Google representative did confirm with me, however, that schools cannot buy directly from Google and must use DonorsChoose.org.

One other detail the Google rep added: a maximum limit of 30 Chromebooks. So schools won’t be able to outfit all their classrooms with this strategy … unless they get creative and run a separate campaign for each class.

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is a 12.1″, 3-pound notebook with a 1.66Ghz Intel dual-core Atom CPU. It’s got WiFi and optional 3G, a 4-in-1 memory card slot, and a built-in webcam. The standard model comes with 2GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD disk. Most importantly for schools, it offers up to 8.5 hours of battery life.

More than a thousand schools are already using Chromebooks in classrooms, Google said.

There is currently only one project up on DonorsChoose, although more will probably join quickly at this price.

One downside: School budgets are not the most flexible things in the world. In fact, the opposite may be true. Here’s hoping that at least some schools have some budget space to take advantage of this fantastic offer. Or, that benefactors on DonorsChoose.org will be very, very generous.

Now if only Google would offer the same deal to non-education customers …

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