January 5th, 2010
Welcome to this morning’s Daily Research Update. Today’s themes are Spring Design, Android, and CourseSmart. If you want more context for this research, take a look at our Education and Technology Trends for 2010. You may also be interested in our Weekly Research Index, or you can follow our live, daily research on our Current News page.
(Click here to see a simple listing of today’s suggested reading)
It’s always hard to know where to begin, exactly, during a week like CES. There are so many product announcements that will have an impact on education. As a warm up, let’s get some e-book news out of the way. CourseSmart is showing off a conceptual video of what e-textbooks might look like on an Apple tablet. This is consistent with their product approach of playing in the Web, but at its heart, the video is mostly a mocked-up representation of an e-reader much like some other media-enhanced e-book readers already on the market. Yes, it happens to be “modeled” on a tablet-type device, but the product is a Web app simply modified for a different screen size. I don’t see much real innovation here. Having said that, what this video does point out is the power of a true Web-based tablet or netbook versus dedicated e-readers. A device that supports this conceptual Web product will also support lots of other user productivity tools. There are other issues related to publisher-created e-textbooks, and Stephen Downes was quick to point our his issues with the CourseSmart vision. “The idea of being required to study something I won’t even be able to read later (without paying a toll) is not only odd and disturbing to me, it is offensive.”
Now, back to hardware products. For the most part, it was an Android day. Google held an event for its Nexus One smartphone and there was plenty of buzz about its possibilities, particularly as compared with the iPhone. You can view this comparison chart of the Nexus One, Droid, and iPhone for a basic primer. But, as this author points out, “Android or iPhone?” is really the wrong question to be asking. — The iPhone is singular and Android smartphones will become ubiquitous. Different consumers and different markets. The big question is which one will own education? One thing to think about is Android’s coming support for Flash and Flash video.
On the e-reader/tablet front… It’s a Nook! No, wait, it’s Spring Design’s dual-screen e-reader. Gizmodo reviewers took a good look at this new entry and said it is everything they had hoped the Nook would be.
The Spring Design Alex, the other dual-screen Android ereader, is what I had hoped the Nook would be: an ereader for hardware nerds. The hardware is thin to the point that you worry it might snap—a common thread in ereader design, actually—but it feels about as sturdy as a Kindle. The screen is standard matte E Ink, which did a good enough job at blotting out the harsh lighting in the conference center. The bottom screen is a bit taller than the Nook’s, giving the whole device a gangly look. But it’s not the screens that matter, it’s what’s on them: That is to say, whatever you want. The Nook’s screens are like content ghettos, with the top intended just for ebooks, and the bottom for navigation. On the Alex, there’s effectively no barrier.
I should also point our that Spring Design announced a partnership with Google yesterday to give users of its device the means to directly access more than one million public domain e-books via Google Books.
In other tablet news, Microsoft and HP are poised to launch the new Courier dual-screen device at CES this week. They will have to present lots of “wow” to sway reviewers away from the hyped anticipation of the Apple tablet announcement later this month.
Finally, we used to read about laptop programs in schools and now we have iPod Touch programs. Check out what these Minnesota school kids are up to. The smaller devices are popular with kids and focus on productivity.
Microsoft to reveal HP built Courier slate tomorrow? | Engadget — Looks like we’ll get a look at the Microsoft-HP tablet tomorrow. They will have to present lots of wow with the hyped anticipation of the Apple tablet later this month.
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