Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race To The Bottom: Tablet Wars

One of the Educational Technology issues that I have always felt very strongly about has been equity and access of technology for all students.  I was shocked to hear about the Aakash tablet that was being introduced in India.  The Indian Government is subsidizing the tablet for schools to purchase at $35 per unit.  The reports also have the tablet selling retail for $60.

Aakash Tablet from Venturebeat on Vimeo.

As the associated article states, this is a "leap frog" technology, which introduces a technology into a culture that has never seen a previous iteration of the technology in their lives. Think of the poorest people in the world who have never had a telephone in their lives, suddenly getting access to a cell phone, this is a "Leap Frog" technology.  The article is straight forward stating that the unit is slow in the way it processes some basic tasks, but they were very surprised when they watched a YouTube Video with no delay or buffering... WOW!

This is just the beginning of the Tablet Wars that will be played out in the market place over the next few months.  Yesterday; ViewSonic, a company best known for producing quality computer monitors, introduced the ViewPad 7e, which is a 7" tablet running Android version 2.3 and lots of extra features, including: SD Memory Card slots, HDMI output, front and back cameras and 4 GB of internal storage.  Retail Price.... $200.

About two months ago, Lenovo (the spin off of the IBM desktop and laptop computer line) introduced the  IdeaPad, a 7" Android tablet which boasts some of the same features as the ViewPad, like dual cameras and SD card slots.  The IdeaPad also has onboard GPS.

Not to be out done, Amazon has re-imagined the Kindle reader and introduced a new version called the "Kindle Fire."  It also retails for $199 and has some nifty features as well.  Amazon already has 95,000 pre-orders for the device, and with the Christmas rush, there will be plenty more sales to come.

What does all of this mean?  It means that there is a "race to the bottom" on the price of tablet devices.  Who benefits from this race to the bottom?  Our students do.  As teachers, we do.  Society does.  All of these Android devices have access to multimedia creation applications that are free and access to the Internet. With a variety of free and low cost standards based text books already available, school districts can purchase these devices with text book funds and still come out ahead. This also means that the only limitation on our teaching and our students learning is our own minds.  

So, the only question left is.... What are you and your students going to do with the world at your fingertips and a tool that will let you create anything you and your students can think of?

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