The curious thing about tablet computing in academia is that it sometimes starts out in patches, long before its incorporated into the whole cloth of an academic computing environment.
But once it's been sewn into a college or academic computing its a concept that takes off rapidly. Notebook makers could do a lot more to make convertible notebooks much more visible and part of academic computing and this process doesn't have to be expensive or so invasive that it cripples an organization. One of the first things computer makers need to do is appoint someone to oversee or regularly work with colleges and academia. In the best of all possible cases, such a person would have a good understanding of the issues IT/academics face. But just as important, they need to have the authority and ability to represent this vibrant market and its associated technologies within a corporation.
One of the best known successes in making a brand visible and creating market share with academic computing is Apple Computer and its Macintosh. but what gets forgotten about Apple is that it had successfully positioned several computers (the Apple // and //c) in academia before the Mac began shipping.
There's a lot of fact and fiction in the story of Apple's forays into academic computing. What's most important about the lesson is that it wasn't just a top-driven program. It had the support of many middle and senior managers who were savvy enough to recognize it's importance on the brand and its potential to drive sales to new customers. I believe Apple's marketing staff executed brilliantly-- they did the fact finding that was necessary to accurately assess needs and potential uses. As importantly, product designers and engineers got involved early on and made sure that products fit the needs. Although it was neither glamorous or successful, the Apple //c, more than it's better known big successful brother--the Macintosh --was designed for academic computing.
But looking back, Apple's push was sales oriented and although the company did bring in educators, the transfer of information was designed to push revenue.
And today, all but one of the companies hoping to score wins in academic computing, use top down push marketing to sell systems. The exception to the rule is Hewlett Packard which has a designated point man/blogger in this market named Jim Vanides. Jim Vanides has become a clearing house of information on how tablet computers can be integrated into colleges and other schools. His blog http://h20325.www2.hp.com/blogs/highered should be a must read for any company selling tablet computers But HP, or any other company in this space should go a couple of steps further this now than one blog. And electronic newsletters for this category are needed now. Such newsletters are natural extensions of blogs and have the potential to boost pen-based computing by serving as information clearing houses. They are also inexpensive instruments of good corporate citizenship.
Although I used HP and Apple as an example, there is one company that really should do this now. That company is Microsoft, whose Vista operating system could do more to make good on the multiple concepts of pen-based computing and leading edge computer usage. I also think Google should look at this.
Although I've become a born again, washed in the circuits user, of pen-based computers I'm the first to admit that I need to understand more about how they can be used to improve delivery of class room material and how they can improve the educational experience. Electronic newsletters for this category can serve this purpose.
Can I hear an "Amen" brothers, sisters and other members of of the church of convertible, pen-based computing? Jim Forbes, on the way back down to my alma mater for a morning of lectures and discussing student business plans for web-based businesses on 01/03/2006