Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Windows Tablets?



iPad 2
Image from http://www.apple.com/ipad/
 Seems everyone's hooked on iPads these days. Apps for this, apps for that.  Apple's iPad is currently enjoying the lion's share of the tablet craze.  This article reports that the iPad has made Apple "the world's most valuable brand." I've heard from various sources that iPad sales make up over 80% of "tablet computer" sales.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a source to confirm an exact number in a quick Bing search.  Maybe I should have used Apple's Safari browser instead. LOL 

Tablets running Google's Android operating system make up most of the remaining market figures.  These include tablets by makers like Samsung, Dell, Motorola, and a handful of other manufacturers.

We're a PC school district.  Apple's iPad doesn't run Microsoft applications... at least not yet. There are some iPad apps out there that will reportedly let users edit & create Word documents, for example, but they seem to be a bit limited in functionality.  I hope to test some of these out soon & will report what I find.  Apple won't display Flash-based videos or web sites, and even Google Docs is a problem without special apps.

Why not Android-based tablets?  Problem with that is: they're relatively unregulated.  Install an app, and who knows what else is lurking about in the code.  Creepy.

My question is: Where is Microsoft in this picture?


The answers I've found seem to indicate they are quietly waiting in the wings, utilizing test mules to apprehensively dip their corporate toes into tablet-infested waters.  

This YouTube video of Microsoft's "Courier" project has been floating around The Cloud for a couple years.  Microsoft scrapped it about a year ago, but man - is it cool-looking in the video:

Rumor has it that Microsoft is "thinking about" releasing a tablet sometime soon. It is not clear yet whether they will run the Windows 7 operating system, the Windows Phone 7 operating system, or some hybrid of the two. 

The Hewlett Packard Touch Pad, (below) which runs the new Palm WebOS, may run Flash & Google Docs more easilly, so that may offer a viable option in the future.  I used to live through my old Palm Pilot back in the 1990s, but we'll have to see if/how they regulate their apps.   
Palm/HP Touch Pad
Image from: http://www.palm.com/us/products/pads/touchpad/index.html

Acer has been quietly selling Android-based tablets for a while now.  However, they have an interesting - albeit pricey - Windows 7 option, called the Iconia

Acer Iconia. 

Ever heard of it? Neither have I.  Marketing is apparently not their strong point.

According to the Iconia Web site, it will run either Windows 7 or Android software applications, meaning it should be very Microsoft- and Google-friendly.  The similarities betweer the Acer Iconia and the Microsoft Courier project are pretty clear.  It's basically two 7-inch (think of the screen size on a portable DVD player) touch-screen tablets joined together with a center hinge. Open it up portrait-style and you have an e-reader tablet with side-by-side pages, just like a book.  Or, open it up laptop-style to launch the full screen keyboard on the horizontal touch-screen closest to you while viewing your workspace on the vertical touch-screen, as shown below, to work on your favorite Windows 7, Microsoft Office, or Google Docs applications & files:


Acer Iconia. 
 Now you have to admit: that's pretty cool.  The downside: the Iconia will set you back about $1200.  OUCH!  And that only gets you 16 Gb of storage for programs, apps & files.  You could buy two 32-Gb iPads (wi-fi only) for that chunk of change.

With a price like that, it's pretty safe to say that we're not likely to see these in classrooms any time soon.  However, some of the early versions of interactive whiteboards cost in the $10k range when first launched, and now that their prices are 70-80% less than that, they're becoming staples, found in more and more classrooms all the time.  So really, who knows?


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