e-Learning Stuff Podcast #047: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

May 16, 2010

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Is the  netbook as a concept finished? Is the iPad the future? James, David and John discuss the rise and fall of the netbook and the potential of Apple’s iPad.

With James Clay, David Sugden and John Whalley.

This is the forty-seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

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You can do what with the iPad?

March 13, 2010

Many people see the iPad as a BIG iPod touch, something that is used to view content on. Though it does have a microphone, unlike the iPhone is does not have a camera.

There is though one aspect of the iPad that Apple have announced that I think some people have missed and that will be the availability of iPad versions of the iWork applications. Apple will at the same time as they release the iPad, release iPad versions of their presentation software, Keynote, wordprocessing software, Pages and spreadsheet software, Numbers.

There are also rumours that Microsoft may be working on a version of Office for the iPad.

So what does this all mean?

Well is turns the iPad from a mainly content consumption device to a device that can allow the user to both consume and create content.

So what you may say, I have a laptop that does just that!

Well it’s pretty certain that the iPad is no laptop, even Steve Jobs in his iPad announcement says that the iPad sits between the iPhone and a laptop.

However I don’t see the iPad replacing my laptop all the time, but in some circumstances I can see it replacing it some of the time.

For example in meetings, the iPad is going to be more useful than a laptop for checking information, using Pages to make notes, etc…

Likewise in conferences (where there are in some sessions no tables), the iPad (with the long battery life) will make it easier to engage in the back channel, makes notes, check URLs, share thoughts and impressions, and all the other conference stuff that at the moment most people do with a notepad and a pencil.

For learners an iPad may be a better device to bring to lessons, with easy access to e-books (and these may be getting more engaging and interactive), internet access, web tools; the ability to also create notes using Pages, or enter notes using tools like Evernote more easily than on an iPod touch or iPhone, I can certainly see many learners preferring the lightweight feel of the iPad, over a heavier laptop. Then again they might want to buy a netbook!

I don’t use spreadsheets much so I don’t see much of a use for Numbers. However I do give a lot of presentations and having Keynote on the iPad makes a lot of sense to me.

I’ve always thought that Apple should have made a Keynote Presentation App for the iPhone; you would create your presentation on the Mac, sync to the iPhone and then on the iPhone would be a little App that allowed you to both view the App on the iPhone screen, or using the AV cable you can get, show the presentation through a projector or TV. One of the issues though with that is Apps can’t use the AV cable! I guess an Apple App could, but maybe not.

If Keynote on the iPad can use the AV Cable and hopefully then other applications will also be able to use the AV out.

Of course the Keynote App for the iPad allows you to create presentations, and I really do like using Keynote as my primary presentation tool.

Overall I think Keynote and Pages for the iPad, have turned the iPad into for me from a “maybe” purchase to a “more than likely” purchase.


The TabletNetBook is Alive!

January 4, 2010

Last week on this blog I posted a blog entry about how the Netbook is Dead.

This week is CES and a few things that have been announced have (in my opinion) helped to reinforce that blog post.

Leonovo have announced their “netbook”. The ThinkPad X100e is an 11.6-inch notebook that starts at a consumer-friendly price of $449. Hardly a cheap micro-laptop? Whilst Samsung have announced a range of netbooks, all models offer the standard 10.1″ LED backlit display. Hardly the small netbook form factor that the Asus EeePC fermented as the netbook form factor? These are not netbooks, they are cheap laptops. Welcome as they are they are hardly revolutionary!

Then on Engadget we see this.

So what is it?

It’s a tabletnetbook or as they call it a smartbook.

Freescale Semiconductor is helping to kick this year’s CES off with a bang, as its latest reference smartbook design actually has somewhat of a sexy flair to it. Currently, the model is little more than a great idea, but the company is hoping to have it available for partner evaluation starting next month. In theory, at least, this “smartbook tablet” would boast an ultrathin form factor, weigh around 0.8 pounds and get powered by a 1GHz i.MX515 processor. Other specs would include 512MB of DDR2 RAM, a 1,024 x 600 touch panel, 4GB to 64GB of internal storage, a microSD expansion slot, optional 3G WWAN module, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, a USB 2.0 socket, audio in / out, 3 megapixel camera, inbuilt 3-axis accelerometer, an ambient light sensor and a 1,900mAh battery. We aren’t quite sure what kind of bulk discounts Freescale is counting on, but it’s hoping that this design will “enable a second generation of smartbook products with prices less than $200.”

For less than $200 (which in tech currency conversion means less that £200) this could be a device to certainly give all those e-Book Readers a run for their money, but also is a potential netbook replacement.


The Netbook is Dead

December 30, 2009

Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February; a small form factor PC running Xandros (Linux) with a 7″ screen.

There had been small laptops before, but they were usually around £2000, the Asus EeePC was less than £200!

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Before long, lots of other companies had jumped on the bandwagon, Dell, HP, even Sony started offering a cheap netbook. Notably Apple didn’t!

In November 2008 we recorded a podcast on the impact of the Asus EeePC and other netbooks; this was at the height of their popularity.

However it wasn’t long before the honeymoon was over. Only in March I was writing about some of the issues I had had with the very small netbooks.

Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keyboard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size.

It was also back then we started to see the feature creep and added functionality with newer netbooks, in the same blog post I wrote.

However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

We also started to see rising prices too. But the devices were popular with learners and practitioners. At most e-learning events too they were awash with netbooks.

However here we are two years after the launch of the Asus EeePC and the netbook is effectively dead, or will be dead soon!

The BBC reports that:

Rising prices and better alternatives may mean curtains for netbooks.

The small portable computers were popular in 2009, but some industry watchers are convinced that their popularity is already waning.

“The days of the netbook are over,” said Stuart Miles, founder and editor of technology blog Pocket Lint.

There are now no netbooks with 7″ screens, very few with 8.9″ screens, most are now coming with bigger screens, at least 10.1″ and sometimes larger. The original netbooks came with small flash based drives, often 2, 4 or 8 GB. This was fine for browsing or word processing, but not sufficient for video or audio. So manufacturers started putting in large traditional hard drives. HP pulled Linux from their netbooks back in February, and that was down to consumer demand, consumers wanted Windows and couldn’t handle or like the Linux OS. In my experience, though I did like Xandros, I found the SUSE on the HP netbooks difficult to use and (bizarrely) unreliable. One of the big issues with the netbook was that it was underpowered which meant it was unsuitable for internet video; as a result manufacturers started putting in more memory and more powerful chips.

The netbook as envisgaed by Asus and imitated by others, is now effectively dead. Most netbooks you buy now are effectively normal laptops, maybe a little smaller…

So what does this mean for learners and learning?

A fair few learners did buy netbooks, but many more bought traditional laptops, as they preferred the “better” user experience over the netbook. Netbooks for most users were as a second computer; learners were more likely to have a single computer and needed something more powerful. Netbooks often did not have the power to deal with media-rich learning content. However the death of the netbook means that there is not the choice that learners did have.

Or is there?

Newer technologies can result in more choice. For a lot of people I know the iPhone has replaced their netbook, and with the introduction of a large iPhone-esque Tablet device by both Apple and Microsoft in 2010 we may have a new style of netbook, a tabletnetbook!


Sony enter the netbook market

July 13, 2009

Sony have entered the netbook market with their new W Series.

vaiowseries

Sony are not new to making small laptops, I had the really nice SRX41P back when I worked for the Western Colleges Consortium, and currently have been playing with the P series.

However one thing you could always say about Sony VAIO small laptops was though they were small in size, they were big in price. The SRX41P was nearly £2000, whilst current small models are nearly as expensive.

However the W series is going to be much cheaper, currently $500 in the US, UK pricing has yet to be announced, but I would guess it would be in the £400 mark.

It’s not a netbook that is going to be a real powerhouse. Running Windows XP, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB HDD it’s no different to a lot of netbooks in the market. It has a 10.1″ screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

As well as the ubiquitous Sony Memory Stick Duo slot there is also (like the P series) a SD card slot. Alas like a lot of netbooks it only has a two hour battery life.

It doesn’t look a lot different to other netbooks (well except you can get it in pink) but Sony is a brand that a lot of people trust and therefore I expect it might sell quite well to people who like Sony stuff, get the feeling that they may be disappointed.

Does make you wonder though if Apple will now take the plunge and enter the netbook market?


A battery life of days…

June 6, 2009

Though I do think netbooks have a future (even if Intel don’t) however what computer do I carry around with me to meetings, events and conferences?

My MacBook Pro!

So is it just that I prefer OS X over Linux and Windows?

Well not really, I do like OS X, but do like Xandros and Windows 7.

The main reason I don’t carry a netbook, is the battery life.

Now it is getting better than it was, but the three cell batteries most of the netbooks I have only last an hour or two, which isn’t good enough for a long train journey or a conference.

This is also an issue with learners having netbooks, they arrive at college at 9 am and most will be there until 4 or 5 pm. What’s the point of carrying a netbook, if well before lunch the battery has run out? Most colleges I am aware of, don’t allow non-college devices to be plugged in, so unless you have an enlightened institution with a sensible “personal applicance” policy, they won’t be able to charge up their netbook during the day.

So was quite pleased to hear from the Computex trade show via the BBC that:

some manufacturers are convinced cheap, low power computers with days of battery life are the future…

The new Tegra system has a lot of potential

Nvidia boss Jen-Hsun Huang claimed a Tegra system could play HD video for 10 hours, compared to 3 hours for a netbook powered by Intel’s rival Atom CPU, and an astonishing 25 days of MP3 playback, compared to 5 hours for current netbooks.

The key to embedding and transforming learning through the use of mobile technologies is dependent on many factors, decent battery life is certainly in there.

These new chips could make a difference.


What do you use your computer for?

March 9, 2009

Last week Apple released a new version of their Mac Pro with the eight core model available from £2,499 which if you add a few options as I did can be as expensive as £8,259!!! This would be one fast machine, with 16GB of RAM, 4TB of raw storage and two 30″ screens!

So if you were going to buy one what would you use it for? Such a beasty would be perfect for graphic manipulation, video editing, video encoding.

Hold on.

How often do you do that?

Not that often?

Wouldn’t an iMac be a better choice? You can get a 20″ iMac for £949.

Wait.

Do you do any video or audio editing? Do you manipulate images much on your computer?

What do you use your computer for?

A bit of word processing, checking e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and Jaiku…

A simple netbook would probably be the answer, spending £199 rather than £8000!

Of course I am not alone thinking like this, Wired has a wonderful article on the rise of the netbook.

The Wired article reminds us:

When Asustek launched the Eee PC in fall 2007, it sold out the entire 350,000-unit inventory in a few months. Eee PCs weren’t bought by people in poor countries but by middle-class consumers in western Europe and the US, people who wanted a second laptop to carry in a handbag for peeking at YouTube or Facebook wherever they were. Soon the major PC brands—Dell, HP, Lenovo—were scrambling to catch up.

The article goes on…

Most of the time, we do almost nothing. Our most common tasks—email, Web surfing, watching streamed videos—require very little processing power. Only a few people, like graphic designers and hardcore gamers, actually need heavy-duty hardware.

At the end of the day most of us, most of our learners do not need a powerful computer, we need something that allows us to do word processing (or blogging), e-mail, social networking, watching a web video, and general web surfing.

Though I suspect most e-learning people have a netbook as their second (or third) computer.

What do you use your computer for?

Thanks to Andy Black for blogging about the Wired article.

Last November we recorded a podcast on the impact of the Asus EeePC and other netbooks and you might want to listen to that.

Photo source.