There were two announcements today dealing with Android-based tablet computers. The first is that Motorola will be shipping a wi-fi model of the Xoom in the United States on March 27th for $599. That price matches the price of the 32GB wi-fi iPad 2, and might make the device more attractive to consumers.
What about the field of education? Will it flock to the Xoom? Does it makes sense for schools to go with the Android platform? The majority of school IT systems are Windows-based or Mac OSX based (there’s probably a Linux school somewhere), and Windows likely has far greater market share. Why would a school go with a new OS (Android) when they currently have Windows or Mac OSX operating systems? Even though the tablets themselves don’t need to run the same OS as the computers in a school, most IT professionals I have met prefer to standardize a system with known commodities. As Fraser Speirs has mentioned, the iPad movement is the first time that non-technologists have outpaced technologists in their attempt to incorporate technology into education. Those non-technologists are screaming for tablets. IT people have to do something about that. Surprisingly, less than a year after the category (tablets) has been reinvented, the iPad represents the “stable” force in computing–and most IT professionals are going to lean towards the iPad if they consider tablets at all.
The Xoom would have to offer unbelievable features–even at the same price as the iPad–to cause education to adopt the device in place of the iPad. And although the Xoom may have some specs that are more advanced, the iPad also beats the (current 3G) Xoom in some hardware categories. And of course, there are more apps for the iPad than the (Android tablet) Xoom.
Ultimately, if Microsoft created a Windows 7-based tablet that was priced competitively with an iPad, and offered a good selection of apps, more educational IT professionals would be tempted to go with such a device rather than with an Android device. This is particularly true of IT professionals wishing to avoid Apple products (And there are a number of those out there).
The second bit of news today was that Samsung will finally be releasing the Galaxy Player (an iPod Touch-like device) in the Spring. I have mentioned that I’d love to buy one of these devices to be able to test Android apps without having to buy a phone and a second contract. One of the big complaints about Android devices are the number of versions of the software that are available at one time, and how long it takes for some cellular companies and manufacturers to upgrade those devices (if they upgrade them at all). The Galaxy Player will ship with Android 2.2 (Froyo) and will be upgradable to 2.3 (Gingerbread) later (even though 2.3 already ships with some phones). Prices have not yet been announced.
The Galaxy Player is important because Microsoft is abandoning the Zune line (although some Zune features will be absorbed into the Windows 7 phone series). Apple needs competition, and it is nice to see Samsung fill that void with a promising product.