The Classmate (whether the convertible tablet or traditional, rugged “clamshell”) is more expensive than the average netbook. Intel would like you to believe that the ruggedness, form factor, usability, and hardware/software ecosystem add enough value that a premium price is justified.
The prices, in fact, are hardly “premium” ($500 for a small form-factor, rugged Windows tablet would be competitive if any other such devices existed on the market). While anyone who has ever used a current-generation Classmate knows that bargain basement netbooks won’t survive the same 60cm drops, don’t include classroom management software, aren’t validated with a variety of scientific hardware and software, and can’t provide an out-of-the-box turnkey solution for a lab or a 1:1 program.
Bigger batteries? A high-definition screen? A more natural handwriting experience? What would make you spend more to outfit a classroom?
There is lot of value in the Classmate, particularly the convertible tablet.