Why the iPad?

Categories: Gadgetry
Comments: Comments Off
Published on: May 9, 2011

When I tell people my district is exploring a 1:1 tablet initiative with the Apple iPad 2, the first thing people ask me is “Why the iPad?”

Two key reasons: app development and device management.

It's here!
The iPad 2 and Smart Cover

A quick bit of background: I like the iPad. I’ve become an Apple fan and there are two iPod touches in the house, so I was already familiar with iOS. I used a first-generation iPad for a while and now I’m onto an iPad 2. I use it all the time, often in place of my laptop.

However, I have no problem with Android. We’re a Google Apps for Education district, I make extensive use of my personal Google account, and my wife and I both own Android phones.

I think iOS and Android are very comparable in the mobile device market. iOS is very simple and intuitive with a plethora of apps and a simple way to purchase and manage them. Android offers a lot of flexibility, yet is a bit less intuitive (partly by design, partly due to different manufacturers offering different interfaces) and Google’s Android Market is a little more cumbersome. (Side note: the Amazon Appstore for Android rocks pretty hard.) iOS still requires syncing via iTunes on a desktop or laptop, while Android syncs directly to a Google account.

The key difference comes in the number of apps, especially educational apps. As of this writing, the Apple App Store has far more applications and a more active developer base. Furthermore, most of the education app developers are concentrating on iOS and the iPad. The HMH Fuse apps, for example, are currently iPad only.

Are we sold on HMH Fuse and other dedicated apps? Not necessarily. It just makes sense to start where the apps are and work back from there.

App purchasing is another matter. Apple’s Volume Purchase Program, by most accounts, is less than ideal, but at least it exists. Nobody has been able to point me to a similar program on the Android side where I can set up a school account and purchase the necessary apps for all of my users. Sure, Apple requires I sync every unit to distribute the apps, or purchase a third-party management package to distribute codes for app downloads, but again, at least there’s a system.

Which brings us to device management. Apple’s own iPhone Configuration Utility can set up basic provisioning, but it too requires hands-on availability of every unity to set them up and to make changes. I sat through a seminar walking through the deployment process, and while it’s not difficult for a tech, it’s far from trivial.

To push changes in deployment and provisioning profiles over the air requires a third-party management package which adds expense: a district must pay license fees for the package as well as pay the $300/year cost for an enterprise subscription to Apple’s Developer Program. The Developer subscription isn’t terrible, but the approximately $10/unit subscription for third-party management can add up quickly in a large district.

But again, at least the options exist. There is no such option in the Android world.

As such, we’re starting with the iPad 2. We have a 12-member team who will receive iPads shortly, and they will begin evaluating them for classroom use and will be a huge factor in deciding how large our deployment will be. If we find we do not have to be tied to iOS applications and we can take better advantage of web tools and Google Apps, we can explore other options.

One of my favorite Android contenders? The Asus Eee Tablet Transformer.

No matter our final decision, it’s clear there are a lot of opportunities for tablets in our district. The next 12 months are going to be very exciting!

Comments are closed.

Welcome , today is Tuesday, December 12, 2017