The Windows PC may well be dominant, but even its supporters agree that it can be a frustrating machine. Those schools sticking with their Apple Macs may be spared, otherwise you are likely to end up using one.
RM, with its Window Box computers, has achieved market leadership by targeting ease of use and the curriculum. Other companies have a different approach. Xemplar, according to its marketing manager Alan Bennett, has tried to "develop a system that will be an active participant in classroom life and one that will not force schools down a proprietary route".
The Xemplar PC Toolbox is based on the Fujitsu e365 PII32 computer and includes a three-year warranty and advanced security software, WinSuite, that prevents pupils interfering with other people's files and protects restricted programs. It covers both security and management and can be used at school and local authority level.
Bennett claims that machine is set up to be "docucentric" - documents children create are centre stage, rather than the program used to create them. An interesting distinction. And there's Portfolio Builder, a feature to help pupils take charge of their own learning by encouraging reflection. It also makes assessment easier for the teacher.
Granada Learning also has a PC (made by Dell) using WinSuite. A comprehensive range of packages selected by nursery, special needs, primary and secondary teachers make up the curriculum software bundles. The pre-schoolnursery bundle, for example, comprises 14 packages, including the Pages word processor, the Smart Alex literacy package from Brilliant Computing and My World Sorting and Grading.
One step ahead, RM will launch Window Box 8. It's more than a change of number - it has been tailored to the new ICT curriculum guidelines. And RM will use the Internet to keep teachers up to date with new worksheets (the entire Window Box software will be on the Net soon). There will also be a new version of the ClassMate software, as well as a wide range of sample classroom files.
Many other firms offer PCs for schools even though they might not be as tuned to the curriculum. Names to consider include Akhter, Compaq, Centerprise, Elonex, ICL, Opus, Time Education, Tiny and Viglen.
* BETT CONNECTIONS
Akhter stand C46 01279 821200 www.akhter.co.uk
BETT information desk stand L35
Centerprise stand F20 01256 378000 www.centerprise.co.uk
Compaq stand G40 0181 332 3000 www.compaq.com
Elonex stand CE30 0181 452 4444 www.elonex.co.uk
Granada Learning stand SN9 0161 827 2887 www.granadalearning.co.uk
ICL stand E40 0117 9842018 www.icl.co.uk
RM stand D50 01235 826000 www.rmplc.net
Time Education stand C60 01282 770044 www.timecomputers.co.uk
Tiny stand C40 01293 821555 www.tiny.com
Viglen stand F6 0181 758 7027 www.viglen.co.uk
Xemplar stand E34 01223 724724 www.xemplar.co.u9k