Is 2010 the year launching a new era of small portable devices? The iPad, the Kin, HP purchasing Palm, the Kindle, a new iPhone, and rumors of a completely revamped Blackberry OS all have made the news in recent months. What does this rapidly developing market mean for schools? Are we picking unripe fruit or should we be poised to catch this latest wave? That is where I find myself this summer. I think that the next school year I will be spending considerable time trying to sort through this changing landscape. Right now I am of the opinion that the educational promise is tantalizingly just beyond reach as the market still skews strongly toward personal use. I think about the use of iPods which have demonstrated value in certain sectors of the education community but have yet to have deep penetration into classroom practice.
It took me a long time to take the plunge into the smartphone market. I am a bruised veteran of the small is beautiful movement in computing. I remember well stopping at New Hampshire CompUSA on a return from a northern New England summer vacation so I could have one of the first Apple Newtons for the next school year (really honey, if we buy now in NH, we won’t pay sales tax!). I also was a recipient of one of the old Blue Chip Grants where we placed Palm 150 PDA’s in the hands of 4th graders for a year. I remember well Palm “donating” leather cases for the units. They were delivered at a Monday meeting with Palm reps about sync and technical issues. The following Friday an email came where Palm announced that they were shutting down their entire education division and that people we met with on Monday were now out of work. I live in one of the more rural parts of the state. Wireless carrier choice and coverage are big issues (AT&T, nope, Sprint nope, T-Mobile, not at my house!). Connectivity via a wireless carrier is a considerable monthly cost (really, honey, if I get the Blackberry now in June will have Internet and Google Maps and we will never get lost on this summer’s vacation!). It really was not until the iPod Touch connected over my home and school wireless networks that I became re-excited by the this market and the educational potential (and honey is now addicted to Plants Vs. Zombies!).
A few weeks ago I did make a smartphone upgrade. I am really enjoying the Droid Incredible with Verizon service. Not quite iPhone/iTouch in simplicity of interface but in some of its features it meets and exceeds the iPhone. Examples on the down side are that I cant buy Plants vs Zombies for Droid, nor a Kindle App (they are working on it). On the upside Double Twist is an OK version of iTunes that I am learning to work with to manage my music and podcast subscriptions but apps such as Pandora, Last.fm, Shazam, and MLB Baseball work fine. I am a beta tester for Audible for Droid and the Droid’s global voice search capability is, well, incredible. Anywhere you see a keyboard input you can speak at the phone and it will translate your speech to text input, very reliably. Since I am ATT& T challenged in my neck of the deep woods and have little hope of seeing the iPhone on Verizon anytime soon, this is working out very well. It is 100% better than my now very old Blackberry Tour.
Is the android operating system emerging as a credible alternative the dominance of Apple? What of a Droid based Tablet? Will HP take the seeds of Palm’s WebOS make it viable in a new product? And after the personal computing market shakes out, what will be left for education? Stay tuned!