HP TouchPad in Education, an opportunity?


State of the Union:

HP TouchPad

  • #1: The iPad is the only tablet around in the mind of the consumer, that 90% market share that Apple cited during the iPad 2 launch is no joke.
  • #2: The iPad is not perfect

The iPad has driven tablet prices to a hitherto impossible level (see the multitude websites stating the iPad 1 would launch for £999 or similar) and most if not all tablet manufacturers are a year later still scrabbling to catch up. I don’t think that Apple will cede the number one position anytime soon, the total ecosystem it offers is difficult for individual suppliers to combat.

As we all know the UK Education market has been ravaged by cuts and tightening of ICT budgets, institutions nationwide (and globally for that matter) are having to do more with less. At the same time mobile devices are becoming more prevalent both in and outside of education. The iPad has achieved two things, first its created the mindshare for what tablets can do and secondly its raised the bar for what is acceptable for a tablet.

This is a doubled edged sword as its created demand for the device but at a time where investing £399 in a mobile device is difficult to justify.

This become all the more difficult when you try to integrate the iPad into your existing education environment:

  • iPads offer no access to the file system so do not work with VLE’s (i.e. you can’t upload into areas)
  • Schools can’t use systems like drop box due to third party data protection issues
  • You cannot bulk specify a proxy, even with the iPhone configuration meaning that a tech will have to manually enter it on each iOS device (fine for one class, not for an entire school)
  • A iPad can only sync with a total of five machines, yet does not offer any out of the box cloud/wireless ways of transmitting content
  • iPads are poor content distributors i.e. give a student a task that requires them to create and then share content with the teacher and it will in most cases require 3rd party work arounds

In short the iPad creates fundamental barriers to integrating it into education and Apple is unwilling to help ‘We’re not looking to go in that direction’ is a response I’ve received from an Apple engineer when discussing the above issues. In spite of this, they are the number one requested item by teachers and because of this I think that HP has a distinct opportunity to flourish in the education sector as the only credible alternative to the iPad.

Lets not forget the elephant in the room,  Android.

Android tablets fall into two catagories, cheap and nasty or prohibitively expensive. Add to this the lack of a consistant UI  (although this may change with Honeycomb) and a lack of tablet formatted apps stacks the deck against wide scale adoption of the platform.

Try to convince a user:

  • ‘So it’s cheaper than the iPad?’ No
  • ‘Ah so that means it must be lighter!’ No
  • ‘But it must have hundreds of tablet Apps!’ No

What is the incentive for the user to invest?

This is the issue that manufacturers of Non – iPads face, everything you do, all of your services are going to be compared to the iPad, whenever I talk about the Xoom, TouchPad to people the word tablet fails to have any resonance ‘Oh you mean an iPad…’. Manufacturers need to understand is that the product they are going to buy is an iPad, unless you give them a damn good reason not to. This is clearly demonstrated by the lack of interest in the Motorola Xoom despite having impressive specifications 1280 * 800  resolution screen,  1GB ram, dual core processor etc it means nothing to most users.

TLDR? In short being better wont win the war.

So is HP doomed? I’m not sure.

At WebOS Connect I saw a presentation by Ben Tattersley on his experience as a both Student learning WebOS and as Teacher showing others how to develop WebOS Apps. Ben went on to discuss the success of teaching students WebOS because of the low cost of investing in the platform due to its HTML/Javascript nature. That means a student does not need to buy a new Mac or PC , they can develop everything they need at home and in School.

And it hit me, there’s the hook, the USP for use of the TouchPad within education, it goes a little something like this:

  • Offer a slight discount on the hardware, it doesn’t have to be massive but enough for the cheapest model to undercut the 16gb iPad
  • Offer a training program for Teachers to learn about WebOS and how develop Apps for themselves
  • Offer on site support to those Teachers when they teach these classes

Think of the PR potiential of the above:

  • The School gets devices at a discount
  • Students get not only access to devices but learn marketable skills for the future

It means that HP doesn’t just sell devices, it offers the those that invest in the TouchPad opportunities to enhance their Students career potential.

Apple is doing everything it can to hold itself back in the market, HP has a real chance to capitalise on it but only if it offers something different.

8 responses to “HP TouchPad in Education, an opportunity?”

  1. jonathanbaldwin says :

    Apart from those slide presentations, essays, music compositions, emails, circuit diagrams, flow charts, videos, and mind maps, you’re right – the iPad can’t be used for content creation.

    • Groovephase says :

      I’m not saying the iPad can’t be used for creating content, just that it makes it more difficult in certain situations than it needs to be.

  2. William Stites says :

    Take a look at the tools from JAMF Casper for management options. They make it very easy to many of the things you are listing as difficult or impossible to do.

  3. Tom Donovan says :

    Re: “You cannot bulk specify a proxy, even with the iPhone configuration meaning that a tech will have to manually enter it on each iOS device (fine for one class, not for an entire school)”

    One way around this is to use a web filter that operates in-line (sometimes called transparent mode). That way all traffic goes through the filter without having to configure settings on each device. We use a Barracuda, but there are others that work this way.

    Re: “Pads are poor content distributors i.e. give a student a task that requires them to create and then share content with the teacher and it will in most cases require 3rd party work arounds.”

    I think this requires us to think differently about how students are working. We need to get away from everything being a document that is created and turned in and handed back, etc. We’re looking at on-line tools like wikis, Google Docs, etc., which move the content off the device altogether. Most recently, we’ve been playing with the WordPress app, which allows posting and editing of items directly. We already have a local WP install for our teachers, which connects to our Open Directory (via LDAP) for authentication. Setting up a separate install for students isn’t out of the question. If, instead of turning assignments in on paper, students post them as blog entries or wiki pages, there are all sorts of possibilities.

    To be honest, I like the fact that iPad is a completely different kind of device, and I relish the disruption of our existing ideas of work processes and control. While others are waiting until all the pieces are in place to lock them down and use them just like a laptop or netbook–in other words, focusing on what the iPad is *not*, the rest of us will focus on what the iPad *is* and will be putting them in the hands of our students and letting them take advantage of the iPad’s unique capabilities.

    • SeekTom says :

      Agreed, the post is not saying the ipad is a bad product, far from it. Its just that some of features can hinder integration.

      The point of the post is how competitors have distinguish themselves and achieve second place.

  4. SeekTom says :

    As a continuance, the iPad is a good product, I just dont understand why Apple makes it harder to mass distribute its items.

  5. dpmassey says :

    I recently published a blog post article, which might be of interest to people reading this article about the TouchPad, entitled Using Tablet Devices in Learning, Teaching and Education with a focus on the HP TouchPad and the benefits of webOS. Please click here to view: http://wp.me/pFqgC-3S

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Price, a new USP for WebOS « If not now, then when? - August 7, 2011

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