Is "free" necessarily a good thing?
This is a rant - but please bear with me.
The RPi is cheap (or, in marketing speak, "excellent value for money").
In the world of Linux it seems that the key requirement of anything is that it is "free" and "Open Source". Free meaning "costs nothing" and Open Source meaning anyone can change it.
To Linux aficionados everything is beautifully structured, simple and certainly not confusing. The command prompt, and the 2.7 million flags for any command, are totally intuitive. Not much different from MSDOS in the early 1980s come to think of it - and some of the commands are remarkably the same - they should be, one got nicked from the other!
So, Linux is simple and those coming from the world of Windows (which is where most teachers and others will be coming from) will only take a few second to get used to the system and then they will be downloading and installing new software and the latest updates with no problems at all.
.... and pigs can fly.
There is a reason why Microsoft moved from MSDOS to Windows (apart from making oodles of money) and nothing they did had not been done at Xerox Parc (and elsewhere) years before.
However, the size of the PC market running Windows, and the fact that there was only one Windows (not dozens of different flavours produced by dozens of different individuals and different companies none of whom are accountable) encouraged others to provide Windows compatible applications - and most of them did it commercially because someone has to pay the wages. Those companies could approach a world-wide market because they knew that everyone with a PC would be using the same flavour of Windows. This market justified massive investment.
Many companies, including mine (and I hate Microsoft, but I have made a good living producing software to work with their stuff), were set up by people working for someone else during the day and working for themselves during the evenings/nights/weekends/holidays. As soon as that work was good enough to ship they started selling, broke away from their day-jobs and started their own companies.
This is a good thing because they provided jobs for other people and paid them decent wages.
Over the last 30+ years thousands of people round the world have made a good living out of the software and hardware products my very small companies have produced. That means millions have been earned in wages and millions have been paid in taxes. It means that money has been generated which has gone to provide services we all enjoy - from hospitals to schools to roads.
This is a good thing.
I would like to invest a lot of money in a major project to provide a seamless development/teaching environment that will work from infant schools (think Logo/Scratch) to sixth form and beyond. I have done my research, I have discussed it with those at the chalk-face and I am ready to roll.
This would be professionally written, professionally managed, professional packaged, professionally documented and professionally supported.
I am not going to do it.
Why? Because everyone wants everything for free and I would stand no chance of recovering my investment.
I have always believed that you get what you pay for when it comes to major products. I also believe that people value things by what they paid for them.
Of course some brilliant things have been written and are available for free. Who paid the people who did them? In some cases it was Universities - so it was the taxpayer or others who funded the institution. In the case of those beavering way after paid work it is probably their employers who suffer - after all, if you are working flat out during the day (which you should be - because that's what you get paid for) how can you expect to work equally flat out at night? It may work for the very young, but it catches up with you eventually - and your day job (the one that pays the wages) will suffer. Of course, if you are on benefit then it is OK - it is just the taxpayer paying again.
I am really fed up that I have an idea for an excellent product, it has been well received by teachers, I know how to do it, I know how long it will take (roughly - think of a number, multiple by two then double it - this is software development after all) and how much it will cost to develop.
However, in the "free and open" world, especially the education world, I don't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting my investment back - let alone paying myself a few bob.
So, there is a downside to "free" - it stifles commercial investment - unless your are a big company willing to throw marketing money (rather then R&D money) at it to build brand awareness and brand loyalty.