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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.

Apple – thanks for the E-Textbook Stimulus

I wrote a post about the recent Apple Educational Event but I decided not to publish it because it was mostly expressing my disappointment. Oh well, I’m glad I spared you the typical uninspiring critique, especially after getting a chance to review the compilation of blog posts put together by the Chronicle, “Campus Reactions to Apple’s Entry Into E-Textbook Market”. Some good points are made by others that give Apple due credit for at least stimulating the E-Textbook market.

I do hold out hope that the iBook Author application might be allowed to be more open with regard to output format. And I do not think Apple needs to require a tether to the iPad for E-Textbooks in the iBookstore but I imagine that for now all the players are holding their cards close. I do believe the overall textbook business model is close to a dramatic shakeup so any E-Textbook stimulus will be beneficial. I can tell you that we are getting ready to play our cards.

Amazon Kindle, a Real Option

Kindle Fire

Finally an alternative to Apple’s iPad in the latest Kindle offerings. I have to admit that I am impressed sight unseen by the Kindle Fire for $199. More then anything else I see adopters of these simpler pad devices desiring simplicity. Just give me a device I can check my email surf the web and read books, and a guess playing games would be cool. This is really about the fact that these pad consumers have never wanted to use a real computer nor should they have been forced to. Now we have some pad options that truly justify having one as a digital consumption device. Let the geeks have the computers but let the masses participate in our digital world more simply and affordably.

Something else that struck me was how Amazon may now be able to build a stronger customer profile database. Not only from this more controlled connection to their customers because of the Kindle device, but maybe more from their controlled monitoring of their web browsing trail. What I am talking about here is the Amazon Silk web browser. Isn’t this improved performance based on running everything through the AWS cloud better then even a proxy server. Google only gets to monitor us when we are on their sites. What if Amazon can now monitor everything we do?

Stephen Shankland’s CNET article: Amazon Silk: One step forward, two steps back shed’s additional light on my privacy concern’s.

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.

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.

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.

iPad as an Advancement Tool

I stumbled across an important use for the iPad. Earlier this week I was wearing my hat as Chairman of the Board for GeoAid where I was supporting our Director in request for a new grant. GeoAid has a number of positive events and accomplishments that we needed to reference in support of this grant request. Once in the meeting my Director was referencing the typical one page executive summary and I could tell that the execs across the table were not engaged. So I opened up my iPad and pulled up some photos of Cameroon Baka Pygmies whom we had helped. Then I pulled up a video of some kids in a school we built and we had them.

So the important use is to get these iPads in the hands of our Advancement people so that they can pull up the gotcha photos and video clips that will seal the deal for their grant or donation request. This will take some coordination, probably with marketing working with Advancement to script out the most effective way to leverage the iPad. But the real key is that the iPad is perfect for a low key tech sales pitch. Pulling up the clip is quick and non-distracting, then just hand the iPad to your prospect as supporting material. You can’t do that with a laptop. Maybe it works really well now while the iPad is a novelty, but I think the reason it works is because it doesn’t come across as a canned presentation.

Careful Recommendation of iPad for Students

This weekend I need to write up a recommendation for our incoming freshman about how the iPad will satisfy their academic computing needs and what support options will be available to them from our IT organization. And I will need to be truthful. I probably can’t qualify my statements with a fallback like you have to believe that Apple will release that feature or they are bound to offer that service eventually. So just to give you a quick review. The lack of a clear printing option is an embarrassment especially for addressing the needs of a college student. Multitasking at least to the the extent mentioned for the iPhone 4 needs to show up sooner then later on the iPad. And the iPad needs some semblance of a file system or at least the ability to send or receive files to and from Internet Web sites. For the college student the iPad should be able to export a file to their LMS system’s homework dropbox.

I know that Apple is still trying to figure out how this iPad will be positioned and how long the techies will accept these feature crippling strategies. Unfortunately today we don’t have a choice. The iPad is in a category by itself with enough features to justify our acceptance. But you know, those iPad competitors are not far off. It will not be hard to duplicate the E-Reader and web surfing features. So when the competition finally hits the street offering file interaction for limited creation and editing. That is when we will see Apple rev the OS and reclaim the loyalty of their technical users. I just ask that Apple go their sooner then later, trust that you will sell just as many Macs after opening up the iPad.

Will iPad Apps Tame the Internet?

The video that demos the new digital tablet format for “Wired” magazine scheduled for release this summer gives us great insight into the near future of the publishing industry. It reconfirms my belief that an iPad equivalent computing device will save many publishing companies and open up serious new E-Publishing market opportunities. This new delivery mechanism will justify paying for a digital subscription.

If we take a closer look at the leading development environment, Adobe Air, that is at the forefront of this revolution we get some more answers to Apple’s business strategy. It is true that Apple does not want to support Flash for Internet browsing because of performance and stability concerns. But what Apple is really doing is controlling distribution of valuable content. If Flash was supported on iPad Internet browsing then full featured content delivery could take place outside of Apple’s control. Adobe’s announcement of Flash 10.1 and Air for Mobiles in Barcelona last week is what its all about. Apple will allow rich media distribution on the iPad via Apps so that they can exert some control over the revenue stream first from the App and second from the in-app advertising and sales. And I think this may be a good thing. We may be seeing the taming of the Internet, which is probably way overdue. Maybe this is the real Web 3.0

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