Showing posts with label Microsoft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Microsoft. Show all posts

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Why Chrome OS is better suited for the classroom

I want to reiterate in this post on just why the Chrome OS in a tablet form factor makes sense. The key, in my view, is the versatility of Chrome OS that can run on different form factors. Previously I noted my skepticism that a tablet running a mobile operating system can function as a laptop replacement (Apple marketed this idea when it first released the larger iPad Pro). However, with Chrome OS now supporting Android applications, I think it can serve the dual purpose of a laptop and tablet.

Apple's iPad Pro essentially runs a mobile OS and Microsoft's Surface 2-in-1 devices runs a desktop operating system with some tablet features built-in. In contrast, Chromebooks that come in diverse form factors are better suited to make use of two different focuses of a mobile and desktop interface. When required Chromebooks can now run mobile-based applications and for other tasks, there is a desktop interface.

This cross-pollination between a mobile-centric operating system and web-centric desktop operating system offers the best of both worlds in education. In the case of Android, there are useful applications for the classroom, e.g., Google Arts & Culture and Google Expeditions. Further, many Chromebooks now support touch and pen input that could make use of the different features in these applications. The desktop interface, on the other hand, works better for multi-tasking between tabs and extensive writing in Google Docs.

Another issue to consider is that many Chromebook are ruggedised and spill-resistant. To contrast, the Apple iPad requires the extra purchase of a rugged keyboard combo if it is to be feasibly used in the classroom.

Chrome OS has matured into a versatile operating system that works across different form factors. Neither Microsoft nor Apple offer anything similar to Chrome OS and I predict Chromebooks to continue to dominate and expand in the education sector.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Always Connected PC

The 'Always Connected PC' (ACPC) is Microsoft's attempt, in collaboration with major vendors, to innovate in the laptop market. Microsoft market the ACPC as a 'technology shift':
We are again at the beginning of another major technology shift: the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere with Always Connected PCs that are instantly on, always connected with incredible battery life.
Below is a summary of the ACPC's differentiating characteristics according to Windows Central:
  1. Instant on: Similar to smartphones and tablets, the ACPC doesn't hibernate and receives instant notifications.  
  2. Always connected: The laptop supports LTE and is always connected to the internet. 
  3. Long battery life: So far, the announced devices advertise a battery life between 20 - 22 hours. In addition, standby mode should last for weeks. 
The default operating system is Windows 10 S but there is the option to change to Windows 10 Home/Pro. It is not clear if all ACPC laptops are intended to run on ARM processors but, so far, the announced devices ship with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. The Snapdragon 835 is specifically optimised for Windows 10 S, so it is not clear how the processor will work with Windows 10 Home/Pro. Will performance/battery life take a hit? Different ACPC laptops will be available soon so we will have a better picture after their release. I expect disadvantages early on before Microsoft and Qualcomm (or others) work on solutions that improve performance and battery life.

The ACPC is here to stay

I believe Microsoft takes the ACPC seriously. This marketed "technology shift" reminds me of Microsoft's previous collaboration with Intel to release the Ultrabook. Similar to the Ultrabook, Microsoft has set minimum requirements for an ACPC device:
It needs to have 13-plus hours of battery life in use, and "weeks" of battery life when it's in sleep or standby mode. It needs to have an LTE cellular modem. It has to be thin and light. And it needs to run Windows 10 S by default, a version of the operating system released last year that maximizes battery life and performance
Right now, there are three officially announced ACPC laptops: Asus NovaGoHP Envy x2, and the Lenovo Miix 630 (a preview of the Asus NovoGo is available here). The Asus NovaGo starts at $599, the Lenovo Miix 630 at $799.99 and the pricing for the HP Envy x2 is yet to be announced. The pricing is high considering hardware specifications and I expect prices to go down as more vendors release their own versions of the ACPC. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Reading on a Windows tablet

Using a Windows tablet as an e-reader is not something I would recommend but there are some applications that can make it work. Below is a list of recommended applications:

E-Books - The choices are limited for e-book reading applications, in comparison to Android; Book Bazaar is the best standalone option, with Frida being a second option. Amazon's Kindle is poorly supported and the only viable option, after Amazon discontinued their Windows Store application, is to download the cumbersome and poor PC version of the application. Oddly, Amazon support an Audible application in the Windows Store. Both OverDrive and Kobo support good applications that are downloadable from the Windows Store.  

PDF documents - Adobe Reader Touch, XODO PDF Reader & Editor and Foxit Mobile PDF are all good options that allow the user to annotate and edit PDF documents.

Note taking - OneNote is the better option as it is fully integrated into the Windows eco-system and there is no subscriptions cost restrictions similar to Evernote.

Cloud storage - similar to OneNote the choice would be to use Window's native OneDrive for cloud storage to sync reading between devices. However, there is a Dropbox application in the Windows Store.

Finally, there are a lot of refurbished Windows tablets but three issues should come first when choosing the right one - (1) battery life; (2) minimum 2GB RAM; (3) minimum 1280 X 800 resolution.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Windows 10 S devices being released

Microsoft announced the release of Windows 10 S a few months back, to take on the success of Chromebooks in the education sector, and now major vendors are releasing budget devices with the operating system. One of the earlier options is the Asus VivoBook W202NA; the laptop is designed to be used in classrooms and can withstand drops from up to 3.9 feet. The device is not priced as an entry-level device and comes with a weaker Apollo Lake Celeron processor (N3350), 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC. Overall, I am sceptical about Windows 10 S for different reasons but one of the biggest problems is the relatively sparse selection of applications compared to Google Play that is being made available on more Chromebooks. Laptop Mag published a review of the W2020NA that can be accessed here.