Monday, December 31, 2012

Year end musing on Tablets, Notebooks and education

As we wrap up 2012, it would be an understatement to say it has been a year of tablets and mobile computing. Consumers were in the driving seat with a wide array of tablets available to them and corporations and Enterprise Architects continued to make the stride towards mobile-enablement of workforce with BYOD strategies.

As the devices become ubiquitous, manufacturers continue to look for fortunes at the Bottom of the Pyramid (apologies C.K. Prahalad). Just a small sampling:
  • Google was selling a $99 Chromebook to teachers this holiday season while also promoting its Nexus tablets 
  • Amazon’s Kindle continues to attract not just budget conscious tablet buyers but also those who want to hook into its ecosystem including Amazon prime subscriptions
  • RIMM 's PlayBook surprised analysts who had all but written off the blackberry maker (link)
  • Of course, Apple doesn’t want to be left out of the party. Not surprisingly announced iPad mini - Every inch an iPad  targeted at the budget concious
A lot more devices from a variety of players hold promise and I guess we are seeing just the tip of iceberg when it comes to innovation at the bottom of pyramid. Given this climate of euphoria, it was a bit chilling to read the NYT account of the challenges being faced by India’s answer to the BoP tablet market – Akash

After creating sufficient mindshare among consumers, marketers seem to be going after the holy grail - next generation market – namely students. A few years ago, a consortia of corporations joined together to provide One Laptop per Child. While the world awaits the laptop for each child, individual tech companies and politicians are not waiting. Manufacturers seem to have found a cash cow: Governments around the world that are pandering to citizen with promises of laptops (for votes?). A sampling from the media reports
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has started assessing the supplying capacity of Hewlett Packard (HP), which has quoted the lowest bid for supplying 15 lakh laptops that the government will distribute among students who passed Class XII in 2012 and are pursuing higher education. (Ref Times of India)
  • TN govt (India) to give free laptops to students this week: The ambitious free laptop scheme of the Tamil Nadu government, under which 68 lakh laptops are to be distributed to government-aided higher secondary school and college students, is all set to roll this week. (article)
  • North Carolina, US “We’re very excited that Orange County Schools will launch our first-ever effort to do a digital conversion (in) grades six through 12,” says Chief Academic Officer of Orange County Schools Dr. Denise Morton. “All students will have a laptop to use during the day and at home at night.” (ref article
  • Australian govt funds 141,000 laptops for schools
Just as I was beginning to wonder about the new generation of tech-saavy-laptop-tablet-wielding youngsters coming to the market, I came across an article on how Students make a quick buck off government laptops. "Many of these graduates don’t have jobs and their families are in a poor state. One father sold his laptop when his son was away, saying he was just watching movies in it with his friends.”

Paraphrasing Queen Marie Antoinette “If you cant equip them with knowledge to get ahead, equip them with tablets?” And a happy new year to rest of us!