Category Archives: iPad

The New PC Revolution

I was intrigued by my own response to the Apple product announcements yesterday. How does that work? Well, I allowed my own technical interest to play out. I watched the product announcement video, I critiqued the Jobs-less Apple presentation as any Apple fan might do. But then I stepped back and evaluated what I had seen and what my gut reactions had been. And I believe I sensed a turning point similar to what I witnessed when the PC finally emerged as the option for the masses back in the early eighties.

Apple’s new products are beautiful and carry an even higher “cool factor”, but I think the difference now is the status difference that emphasizes affluence over practicality. I caught myself asking “why do we really need such a thin iMAC with a retina display that will cost approximately $2000. Sure some power users can justify the specifications, but I sensed a new arrogance from Apple, one that says we only care or cater to the affluent buyer and if you have concerns about being locked into our platform then tough, we don’t need you. Why haven’t I felt that before.

  • Was it because the Apple products were so superior that cost was not a factor.
  • Was it the fact that I don’t really see a difference with the retina display.
  • Was it the lack of attention to even offer low cost options.
  • Was it the $329 entry price for the iPad Mini.

Yes, probably so.

If I wear my Higher Education hat, I start to question whether the recent trend of students preferring Apple laptops is still healthy in these turbulent financial times. I see the student with a white macbook as the Kmart shopper and the those with aluminum models the Neiman Marcus shopper. I see our entitled students as being concerned about this. Nothing wrong, this is who we are, but I sense that the split in the road is now pronounced. Apple only wants the high road and the profit margins that come from that market segment. Do we in Higher Education need to shift our focus to the affordable consumer market that appears to be dominated by Google based platforms?

I think the door is still slightly open for Microsoft to hold onto the corporate workplace, but it won’t be because of an Office Suite but can be about professional applications. Let’s accept the fact that a Pad computing device is more then adequate for working with today’s cloud based information. I believe we will see affordable smart computing devices appear in the hands of the consumer masses worldwide. This is a movement that redefines the Personal Computer, “PC”.  And with it, we will have an even greater need for techies to maintain computing sanity.

Good Look at our iGFU Mobile Portal

Our student News team wanted to do a story on our iGFU Mobile Portal. They tried to video record a demo off of an iPAD which was not going to work so iGFU author, Brian McLaughlin, made them a simple tutorial that we now use on our website. Checkout the tutorial if you have any interest in what a university mobile portal needs to be. Remember, our mobile portal is basically a skunk works project that leverages the flexibility and performance of HTML5 using Java and PHP to access useful data from general data feeds, Moodle and our PeopleSoft ERP.

The tutorial also highlights a couple of other useful tools. Brian made the video by using an App called AirServer that allows him to mirror an IOS device to his MacBook. He then records it with Quicktime and with a little editing on iMovie you get a very real view of a mobile app. Then we upload the video to our new ShareStream video distribution system which gives us total flexiblity to manage and distribute video (especially if we want to manage copyright). We are investigating if AirServer might offer a better path for iPad mirroring to projector in the classroom.

PC Market Changes May be Accelerating

There seems to be an uptick of articles referencing the changing slice of the micro computer pie held by the traditional computer vendors along with info about declining sales. Obviously millions of iPads hitting the market has some affect on this. But I thought I would relay a more local consumer trend that I am observing. In our higher education community where I tend  to be the technology sounding board, I will get lots of feedback from the early device adopters. So I have witnessed many iPad adopters convey their positive experiences. This was validated for me yesterday by the questions I received after giving a talk about consumer technology trends to the local Rotary Club.

What I am starting to hear from these iPad adopters is that they now want to replace their Personal Computer partly due to life cycle timing but mostly because they want a new computer. They are showing new found technology confidence that they have gained from their iPad experience. And they are primarily talking about switching to Apple for the first time. They get it. They believe that there can be a simpler solution and of course they equate that to their positive experience with the Apple iPad.

I throw this observation out because it may help to signal significant change that is about to hit the personal computer industry. Household computing needs have been satisfied for many years by the consumer PC micro computer lines. These PCs were positive experiences for months or maybe years, but they also inflicted a lot of pain upon those users. And the reality was that there was no need for that type of computing platform to satisfy the simple desires for Internet access or home management. But that was the only solution available. So now, what if this new pad device does receive a public blessing. What platform do you think is going to lose market share?

Embracing the Widespread Adoption of Consumer Technologies

I’m heading off to Ft Lauderdale tomorrow for a CIO Technology Summit where I am presenting a session entitled ”Embracing the Widespread Adoption of Consumer Technologies”. This will actually be a session following one focusing on how pervasive mobile computing has become and my goal will be to stimulate discussion on this topic that may change the landscape of higher education IT organizations.

Embracing adoption of consumer technologies does not sound unusual, however, what we are really talking about is embracing an adoption of mobile technologies that is moving so fast that it is breaking all of our old rules of IT management. But we are dealing with a different customer today and that is the real dilemma. This reminded me of my post about a year ago, where I talked about how Higher Education’s influence is changing. That post was referenced up by Marc Parry at the Chronicle using this quote:

Are universities losing their influence over the tech sector?
Yes, argues Greg Smith, chief information officer at George Fox University, in a provocative post on his blog.

This article generated significant discussion on the CIO forum and it diverged into many interpretations that had nothing to do with my real point, however, Parry summarized it accurately.

The influence stemmed from how students’ computing experience would affect their future buying habits, he says. As evidence of its decline, he points to how Apple “has not been catering to higher education with their shift to the new iPad consumer line,” and how Microsoft seems relatively unconcerned about universities as it tries to retain its business and government markets.

The point was, that our students were already committed to consumer technologies by the time they hit our campuses. That was not the case just a few years ago. So now a year later we brace for the coming academic year with real questions about how we will support the widespread adoption of consumer technologies. But this is moving way to fast due to the mobile computing influence along with many new variables such as E-Textbooks and the changing roll of our faculty needing to be coaches more then lecturers. IT has always catered to the academics by dictating technology  specifications and required software. However, that control is not only being questioned by our students but I am starting to question whether we need to dramatically shift the IT focus to coaching as well.

I go back to a recent post on support for mobile computing: “Our previous management of student computing is not wrong it is just not needed any more”. This just means that our support needs to transition and we can still govern the timeline, but it will be different. And I think our greatest challenge will be helping our faculty deal with this.

ACU’s ConnectEd Summit offered great insight

The ACU Connected Summit was extremely valuable to anyone asking questions about the impact that mobile computing will have on education. I feel good about my university’s strategy to prepare for an onslaught of many different mobile devices. Our getting out of the device distribution business does fit where Higher Education should be. I do think that K-12 may be ready for device distribution especially when tied to e-textbook distribution. Of course the summit was dominated by Apple devices, primarily the iPad. But the iPad is the current benchmark, I just worry that the iTunes tether needs to be relaxed to make life a little easier for our IT Service Desks to be able to effectively support them.

The opportunity to listen to Steve Wozniak casually address us on random nerd topics was quite comforting. Observing a geekier geek then yourself is uplifting in many ways. I liked Karen Cator’s energy, our Department of Education could really use it. But it was Adrian Sannier who I really wanted to hear. As I expected his new identity as Pearson evangelist does adjust his rudder a bit, but he is still out there on the edge telling us what we all want our Academics to realize. I do think that his connection with Pearson provides added credibility for his predictions for the demise of textbooks, bookstores, LMSs and let’s hope not Education.

Hear what many of us had to say about Mobile Computing’s effect.

Another star of the Summit was the unveiling of the AT&T Learning Studio. Yes it is a dream to most of us, but it does provide a very nice template for those dreams.

NFC could justify RFID thanks to Apple

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I would guess that many of you caught the story this week about the strong rumors that Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPad 2 will support NFC, Near Field Communication. This basically says that those devices will be able to authenticate close range wireless transactions which probably means we will start referring to this as the iWallet. This makes total sense and the fact that Apple launches it guarantees that it will be adopted industry wide. So this reminds me of my prediction a few years back in my post New Telco Business Model when I mentioned the concept of our Cell Phones becoming our Identification card. Of course I was advising the Telcos to take the lead on this, but I knew they wouldn’t.

I predict this will move rapidly, especially once they add a few techniques that validate that you are the authorized owner of the mobile device. This offers a 2 key authentication option that is as good as login and password. What do I mean? Well, you can’t just let an iPhone have authority to make purchases or pass through gates, so you have to have a way to verify that this is your device. It could be as archaic as entering a password on your mobile device but I’m thinking it might better justify that RFID chip implanted in your forearm that you pair with. So that chip doesn’t really hold any personal information, it just allows you to authorize that it is OK for your Near Field Communication of private information to take place. I’m thinking airport security checkin but debiting my account for purchasing coffee would be important as well. This could be huge for solidifying iTunes as our identity of choice.

iPad Feedback from Our Students

A difficult semester has ended, one in which our focus has been for support of a close colleague in his fight against cancer. I haven’t had the same motivation to post because of this.

I do owe the blog a summary of feedback that we have acquired from our students that chose an iPad rather then a MacBook this year. This feedback is unique in that it comes from a selection of students that have voluntarily chosen to satisfy some of there college computing needs with an iPad. My references to our survey represents 1/3 of the 67 iPad students and we enlisted others to give us direct feedback thanks to significant bribes. Overall this group of 67 students with iPads has really blended into the population. My overall impression is that they all feel very fortunate to have an iPad but treat it as a luxury supplement to their computing needs.

These students all seem to understand the positioning of the iPad vs. their computer and they seemed technologically comfortable with their iPad, although I was surprised that they were not more inquisitive about all that it could do. They typically only had a small number of apps that they had loaded. I would have expected them to be more exploratory especially with free apps.

Survey feedback seemed to suggest that most the students considered their iPads as an academic tool however, there were some that valued it primarily for entertainment. Note taking was the most prominent classroom usage and they were excited to compare what they were using. The note taking apps that could also audio record caught everyone’s attention.

We gave each student $30 in iTunes gift cards earmarked for them to buy iWorks so I was interested if they ended up spending any of their own money. Only a third of them did and I think this related more to lack of awareness of entertainment options. I was surprised that most had not discovered NetFlix.

We specifically asked them about their use of E-Books and their responses not only confirmed limited E-Book activity but outlined their dissatisfaction with PDF versions. I was surprised that they also preferred the iBook reader vs the Kindle, and it was about presentation and ease of use. There justification for the use of E-Books was to reduce weight in their backpacks. Overall they were very disappointed that they had not been able to utilize iPad enhanced E-Textbooks.

We received confirmation that there really haven’t been any service issues with the iPad. WiFi was always straightforward for the students and we haven’t had any service tickets for the iPads in IT. We did get a number of extensive responses to the question: “Do you think an iPad is all that is needed to take care of your college computing needs?”. Overwhelmingly the answer was no, listing all of the typical issues revolving around the obvious limitations with printing, writing and Web media restrictions. The laptop is still alive and well which I can validate by my preference for using my Air over my iPad.

I do think pad style computers will be able to accommodate college computing needs, but I am not sure it will be a priority for the iPad. The iPad is a useful technology supplement for the college learner, unfortunately it is a luxury that many will not be able to justify.

The Larger Question about Technology in Higher Education

The iPad or mobile computing hype for Higher Education continues to be strong but grasping for articles. I sense media is a bit frustrated that Higher Ed has not been able to embrace the iPad, but that is just the calm we are in before the storm. The larger question of technology in Higher Education may be the more interesting topic right now. Our university was just selected by Fast Company as one of the top five technologically decked out institutions that students would want to select. Of course a mid size regional private university like George Fox was impressed most by being listed with Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame. The reality is that we really are technologically ahead of the game but it is not strategically driven. We just happen to have had a visionary president 20 years ago who initiated a laptop program for undergraduate students to distinguish us for marketing value. And that core laptop commitment gave me the institutional motivation needed to drive EdTech initiatives. So Fast Company made a selection based on headline hits, and yes our students are technologically decked out. But the real reason we are a good choice is that we keep technology in perspective. We build or buy it if it will really be used. We understand that at best 20% of our faculty will actually benefit or care about these great technological advances. But that is OK, that 20% is enough to justify the attention we want our students to place in the technology we provide them.

The larger question I mentioned is technology in Higher Education. Technology that is no longer about the computers we provide or require our students to use. No longer about the software that we believe is the gateway to prosperity. No longer about how to make information available for learning. No, it is about how to use what we have created. Students have plenty of acceptable choices for managing the information they need for the creation of knowledge. Higher Education now must help optimize this use of technology. Teaching may be more important then ever. Teachers used to provide the information that they molded into knowledge. Now they must help the student filter the information in hopes of influencing the knowledge that will be formed. So maybe being technologically decked out helped George Fox to have the largest and smartest new class ever. But maybe we have been recognized for the importance of a 12 to 1 student to faculty ratio working with a great information filtering system.

Students are starting to pick up their iPads

The new year is upon us and interest continues to mount concerning the iPad option we have offered our new students. So we started handing out MacBooks or iPads to the new students here early for athletics and there seemed to be more then 10% picking up their iPads. Maybe a correlation here? Anyways, I did get to ask a number of them why they chose the iPad and the answer was always that they already had a computer so they felt lucky to have the option to get an iPad. They had total confidence in what it was going to do for them and seemed to understand the limitations. I do think our pool of students that have selected the iPad will be an interesting group to study in that they all had the freedom to choose, hence, are probably highly motivated to utilize the device. I sensed that the students with iPads will not be shy about using them (pride in their selection) which will give us interesting comparisons to our traditional Macbook users.

Next Thursday the fun will really begin when the traditional freshman show up. It also sounds like a number of media folks will be around hoping to capture some quotes from some of these students. Still the unanswered question: “Do you think the iPad will allow you to benefit from E-Textbooks?”. Well yes if there were E-Textbooks.

Would Apple or Intel really make a play for ARM?

Apple is riding a wave of revenue success and technological leadership. The iPad has proven that the consumer is interested and willing to pay for a simple but efficient access to information and entertainment. So the competition is lining up for entry to or enhancement of handheld computing devices and these devices are not running Microsoft and they are not running on Intel processors. This leads me to ask just how important the processor is going to be.

Apple has set a new specification standard with the 1GHz A4 processor in the iPad. In response Intel has shifted focus to a new Atom processor, which is designed for devices such as smartphones, tablets and handheld gadgets. Qualcomm has a version of the Snapdragon dual core processors that compete with the A4 in mobile mode and kick in dual processing when plugged in. But what will it take to outperform Apple’s new processors? Apple is serious about maintaining their lead in this tech space, acquiring P.A. Semi in 2008 gave them one of the leading implementations of ARM design. That is ARM as in chip designer ARM Holdings out of the UK whose technology dates back to the Acorn Computer, often referred to as “UK’s Apple” that did not make it.  But ARM is known for designing elegant, fast, energy efficient silicon that’s small enough to fit into gadgets. ARM is unique in that rather than build its own chips, it simply licenses blueprints to companies like Apple and many others.

So there have been some interesting rumors of late that Apple may try to buy ARM. Apple does appear to be concerned about controlling this processing advantage. Apple just acquired Intrinsity, the company that was greatly responsible for the lightning fast 1GHz A4 design that’s within the iPad. It appears Apple would like to eliminate any opportunity for a competitor to consult with Intrinsity for their own designs. But that may not be enough, acquiring ARM if allowed would be a significant strategic play for control of this critical processing design that dominates smartphones and the new tablet devices. So keep an eye out for this one, it would take some of Apple’s billions and it doesn’t make total business sense. But the excitement would be typical Apple fever pitched fueled by dozens of nervous tech companies, and probably a few regulators, wanting to stop such a purchase at all costs. Just the kind of limelight that Steve Jobs would love.

Update 7/15/10  – ARM Holdings continues to attack Intel’s dominance of the chip market.

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