HP, NetSchools join in laptop deal

Hewlett-Packard Co. has joined with NetSchools Corp. to offer schools the ability to provide every student with a laptop computer connected through a wireless network.

NetSchools' product, Constellation, gives each student a laptop computer at the start of the school year, which the student essentially borrows like a library book until the end of the school year. The laptops, durable enough to withstand a three- to five-foot drop onto concrete, are equipped with an infrared device — similar to a remote control — that communicates with a sensor in the ceiling of each classroom. Teachers' laptops are connected through a local-area network. Because all students have their own portable computers, teachers can conduct classes without having to move to a computer room.

NetSchools serves more than 14,000 students in 36 schools nationwide. In the next year, the company expects to equip 20 to 30 more schools.

Under the agreement, HP will provide all the hardware for the Constellation product. However, the company has not yet developed the unique student computers and infrared network, which will be supplied by NetSchools until HP develops its own.

The complete solution — including computers, printers, network, servers and other products — costs about $2,000 per student, although company officials say the price may go down.

"NetSchools has done a great job demonstrating approved academic achievement, test scores and attendance in schools that use the one-to-one computing environment," said Brent Boyer, e-School program manager for HP.

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