The Role of Tablets in a Fast-Evolving Mobile Market

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The Role of Tablets in a Fast-Evolving Mobile Market

by Michelle Maisto

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Three Pilot Programs Test Tablets' Roles In Education

Deborah Moschella Saks, director of user services at Framingham State University in Massachusetts, discussed a $30,000 technical grant the school established for "designing new instructional techniques and programs." Largely involving iPads, these have included pushing out real-time polling during lectures and creating time-period-based social communities to assist learning through cultural immersion.

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New Devices, New Software, New Learning

"What have we learned?"asked Moshella Saks. "Tablets definitely have a role in higher education, but you can't just throw them in and say 'teach.' You have to adjust the way you teach to the tool you're using," she said.

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Technology Should Be Invisible

Brian Garcia, CTO of emerging business at insurance provider Aetna, gave a compelling keynote about the need to decrease the friction between technology and the problems we're using it to address. He told a story about a woman whose cancer treatments were subtly brightened by the knowingly atrocious ties her physician wore, but how after a computer was brought into the exam room for data input, she spent the majority of her visits looking at his back while he typed.

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Find the Answer, Then the Technology

"If I ask you what five plus five is, you'd tell me the answer is 10. But what if I ask you what numbers add up to 10? Suddenly, there are an infinite set of possibilities for reaching the same answer, just by changing the question," said Aetna's Garcia.

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Google's Moonshots

Alan Masarek, director of Chrome and apps at Google, talked about the seeming craziness of Google working on a browser during a time when Microsoft's Explorer seemed the end-all. "In my view, Chrome will win out. ... These moonshots Google is taking are really working." He also described Microsoft as being stuck on the issue whether they're a platform company or a software company. "They're in a tight spot," he said. "But they're smart guys; they'll figure it out."

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Eating the Competition's Dog Food

Google's Masarek also (unnecessarily) confessed to being an iPhone and iPad user. Though, again pointing to how quickly things change in the mobile market, he noted during his talk, "People who use 'iPad' and 'tablet' synonymously, as though it's game over—that's a mistake."

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Hewlett-Packard Wants to Be All-In on Tablets

"What we aspire to be is an HP-sized player on the tablet side," said Omar Javaid, HP's vice president of product management, referring to HP's top position in the PC market. HP's portfolio ranges from the ElitePad to, soon, the $169 HP Slate 7, its first Android-running tablet. "We have a long and successful relationship with Microsoft," said Javaid, "but our customers are looking for more than Microsoft solutions, and we are developing those."

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School of Rock

Evan Trent, senior vice president of corporate development at the School of Rock (on which the movie was loosely based) has incorporated tablets into its agenda of teaching kids to play instruments, to collaborate and be part of a band, and to generally inspire them in their lives. At the school, "it's really hard to get people to follow IT policies," Trent said. "The attitude is very 'damn the man'—very rock 'n' roll."

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The Challenges of Managing a Tablet Project

Stephen Vilke, CTO and co-founder of Framehawk; Ragu Kantamaneni, chief evangelist, product marketing and business development for Damaka; and Jan Morris, director of business development at Golden Gekko, discussed the challenges of tablets and whether they're necessary. "The average time use for [a tablet] is eight minutes, versus eight hours for laptops," said Vilke (left). "If you want to use them as primary devices, more innovation is necessary."

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The Thorsten Heins Comment

When Heins' comment was mentioned, Kantamaneni said, "I think that's nonsense." He went on to tell a story about a colleague's wife who was completely computer-unsavvy and had never sent an email; then, he bought an iPad, and in one day she was emailing and messaging. "A device that makes it that easy ... I don't see how that doesn't translate to the office."

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