Bring on the Amazon Tablet

Categories: Gadgetry
Comments: Comments Off
Published on: September 3, 2011

Details on the oft-rumored Amazon Tablet are finally emerging, and TechCrunch has the scoop. The short version: 7″ display, forked version of pre-2.2 Android, two-finger multi-touch, $250 plus possibly an included Amazon Prime subscription.

I’m excited… and concerned.

I do wonder why they’ve avoided following the Android path into the 3.x series. Forking is a fact of life in the Open Source world, but I worry it will limit growth in an already-behind (relative to the iPad) tablet market.

However, as a reading device, I have to agree it will dominate, and Amazon’s not stupid, so this forking may not be a problem after all. For one, I’m sure developers are going to want to be in the Amazon App Store if this thing takes off, so that alone may make the fork a moot point. There are also very few apps I’ve found that are in the Google Market but not on the Android App Store.

So let’s talk about this new Kindle Tablet in education. If I can buy two of these for every iPad, I’ve just cut my distance from a 1:1 tablet environment in half. My district kicked around funding a project with tablets at a $300 price point as doable, and now we’ve dropped below that line. It’s also a lot easier to get the parents and community to accept a $250 reading device over a $500 tablet often perceived as a vanity device because of who makes it.

Which begs the next question: will this be as capable as the iPad for students? The key requirements to me are textbooks, multimedia and note-taking/composition; apps are extras.

Given Amazon’s core business is books, I can easily see them wooing textbook manufacturers at all levels to their platform. There’s not an Amazon Education Store near as I can tell, but I imagine this would not be difficult for them to set up and partner with schools to push content to students. It may even motivate manufacturers to port things like HMH Fuse to Android.

As for multimedia, we (meaning education as a whole) have been pushing teachers to use more and more video and audio content in their classrooms. YouTube has been a boon to teachers, and there are also several online videos and DVDs from places like The History Channel and The Learning Channel teachers use to supplement lessons. Add Khan Academy to the mix, and there’s a plethora of video students potentially need access to both in school and at home. (Just imagine if Khan Academy added a “Sign in with your Amazon account” option…)

Finally, students will need to be able to take notes and, ideally, compose papers on the device. Evernote is already in the app store, but students will need to be able to easily capture or enter their notes. And for long-form typing, will there be an option to add a USB or Bluetooth keyboard? I don’t have a huge problem with the iPad on-screen keyboard for short notes and email, but as a novelist and short story writer on the side, I much prefer doing long composition on a Bluetooth keyboard on my iPad.

I also wonder if the new Kindle will play nice with Google Apps for Education. We’re sold on that suite in our district, and teachers and students are making more and more use of it. The collaboration features are great, and while Google Docs does not quite work seamlessly on the iPad (Google serves up a stripped-down interface), I’d like students to have access to it. Better to have their docs on a cloud account like GDocs than juggling server folders and email attachments.

Still, at $250, the price point makes most of these issues workable. I think there are enough innovative teachers out there to really make this work. And even if it does just do textbooks and notes, at $250 I would still call it a win if it just replaces all the books and notebooks kids have to carry around with them all the time. Long-form composition can still be done the traditional way: at home or in a computer lab.

Now I just hope they’re working on some method of deployment and management for schools…

Comments are closed.

Welcome , today is Tuesday, December 12, 2017