iPads with ZAGG Keyboards vs. 13 inch Macbook Airs

Benefits of iPads with ZAGG Keyboards

  • Smaller and lighter than Macbook Airs
  • 12 hour battery life
  • 2 year replacement cycle (meaning newer and faster evolving hardware)
  • Touch screens that enable different type of user interface
    • For drawing, for math calculations using stylus, for ease of zooming and moving images on screen
  • Portrait/Landscape Pad functionality
    • For reading digital and graphic texts, Kindle books, viewing maps
  • Ease of adding applications
  • Option for 3G/4G wireless capability
    • For Internet access and updates anywhere with 3G data
    • Requires £5-10 a month data plan per iPad
    • Enables GPS opportunities as well (maps, tagging)
  • High quality cameras, both forward looking and backward looking
  • Ease of taking photos and videos
  • Instant start up and opportunities for anytime, anywhere ease of use
  • Could likely be kept by students during summer months

Disadvantages of iPads

  • Cost is about the same as Macbook Airs (if replaced almost twice as often)
  • Designed for individual users, so much more difficult to manage and unify software sets (all users on same version, or provisioning of school-purchased software to all devices).
  • No easy way to manage files created by iPad apps– to move to other computers, to save on the iPad, etc.  (Other than Dropbox or maybe Google Drive in the future.)
  • No easy way to add or use more advanced software (Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Dill language software, advanced Math or Science applications)
  • Site licenses and associated cost savings are not available for iPad software packages (in UK).
  • Harder to connect to basic peripherals (printers, digital cameras, flash jumpdrives), and limited or no support for more advanced peripherals (such as scanners, scientific probe hardware, smartphones).
  • Does not support Flash in browser, so many web-based services (like ALEKS math) not usable yet.  Other web interfaces, like Google Apps, are only recently supported.  Advanced features in Haiku may not be supported.  Unlikely to work for STAMP Testing.
  • Screen size is limited to 9.7 inches.
  • ZAGG keyboard is more limited than regular Macbook keyboard
  • Memory, storage and processor speed is less than a Macbook

Advantages of 13.3 inch Macbook Air

  • More similar to learning and usability foundation built in our MS program.
  • More compatibility for both high (Adobe Creative Suite, Dill Language Software) and low (Google Apps, ALEKS website) technology needs and services.
  • Thinner and lighter than white plastic Macbooks.
  • 30 second boot time with solid state hard drive.
  • Easier to image and manage in an enterprise environment.
  • Easier to share high-expense software packages.
  • Easier to ensure that all students would be on the same software versions, for greater reliability and simplicity when working at ASL and with each other.
  • Larger screen and full feature keyboard (important for publications, digital arts, and design students).
  • More complete compatibility with low end (printers and digital cameras and projectors) and high end (scanners, scientific probes) peripherals.

Disadvantages of 13.3 inch Macbook Air

  • Each device would need to be used by students for at least three years to balance costs, so the hardware would have a lower refresh rate.
  • No touch screen interface or pad-like reading capability for digital texts.
  • Only a single webcam– for Facetime and similar uses, but not as replacement for a digital camera or camcorder.
  • Shorter battery life (six vs twelve hours)
  • Somewhat more difficult for users to to add applications (but this is improving with App Store)
  • Would likely need to be turned in during summer months for repairs, cleaning, re-imaging and likely redeployment to other users.
  • Larger and heavier than iPads with keyboards.

Based on six months of testing, we feel that the iPads have a role in the school, but it is more of a targeted or specific task role, and not a replacement of existing laptops.  We also believe that the next generations of the Macbook Airs may likely evolve to be more like the iPads, with touch screens and 3/4G capability, etc.  If iPads become smaller and less expensive, they might become a supporting role device (like a graphing calculator or e-Reader) for the things they do best.

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