2 In 1
I am seeing a lot of Twitter posts about 2-in-1 programs this morning. The 2-in-1 is a detachable keyboard or 360° fold-over keyboard Windows-based computer. You can see Intel's advertisement about this here. I am not sure where the sudden 2-in-1 push is coming from, but I do have some thoughts about this line of thinking.
First, I am still not convinced that keyboards ultimately make that much difference. I know adults prefer physical keyboards, but some studies have shown that students are faster while typing on a tablet keyboard than a physical keyboard. We have had less than 20 checkouts of iOS keyboards in our 1:1 over two years (and we bought hundreds of keyboards). When you add the additional features of speech-to-text and predictive text, the perceived advantages of a physical keyboard should be reconsidered.
Second, most 2-in-1 devices are running Windows 8.1. There are a few cases of Android 2-in-1 devices, but I will not address those at this time. I have one of these Windows 8.1 devices, the Asus T-100. Most 2-in-1 devices pair a lower speed processor and overall lesser hardware to make an affordable device. These machines can run Windows 8.1, but it isn't a smooth experience. There are excellent 2-in-1 devices, like the Surface Pro 3, but they cost as much as a MacBook (more when you add the keyboard in the case of the Surface Pro 3). Let's be honest…your school always looks at budget. It will often buy the cheapest device, whether Chromebook, low cost 2-in-1, or cheapest iPad.
Third, sticking with the Windows issue, schools have to install all kinds of monitoring and anti-virus utilities, which ultimately impact the performance of any device. Think of 2-in-1 devices as the replacement of the netbook (this is a very solid comparison). Additional utilities that take up system resources result in slower performance, more time, and frustrated users.
Finally, the app experience on Windows 8.1 is lacking. Many quality apps from iOS and Android (if they are on Android) are missing on Windows 8.1, and have often found that the same app costs more on the Windows App Store than on the iOS or Android App Stores. I am fully aware that Windows 8.1 runs all “traditional” software. So, for example, you can run Finale, Sibelius, Notion, or MuseScore. But these programs were never intended to be run in tablet mode. When you use a tablet, you need programs that are optimized for tablet use. Native tablet apps are essential in a tablet environment. Additionally, computer programs are often hundreds of dollars more on traditional computers than on tablets. There are some open source solutions, but when you have to buy a program for an entire inventory of computers, it is going to be far more expensive than a large purchase of multiple iPad or Android apps.
On a related note, I am not sure there is any educational app distribution model for Windows 8.1 as there is for iOS and some Android devices.
Ultimately, I feel this 2-in-1 push must be a result of a financial campaign to move Windows devices back into education. No one can use educational-level 2-in-1 computers with background utilities causing performance issues–or visit the Windows App Store and examine the availability of apps–and leave thinking that 2-in-1 computers are a viable 1-to-1 solution in schools.
I did, however, want to end on a positive note. I do like “tile world” on Windows 8.1, Microsoft's answer to mobile operating interfaces. Tile World works well, and is a refreshing attempt to solve the issue of mobile operating systems, rather than just copying Apple or Android. But for you–likely as a music educator–Tiel World isn't going to offer the range of apps that you need for your classroom or personal musical involvement.