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5/1/2013
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Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools

Maine chooses a Windows-based laptop from HP as the preferred computer for middle school children, replacing Apple computers.

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
(click image for slideshow)
The state of Maine has provided free laptops to its middle school students for more than a decade and, so far, nearly every one of those machines has been an Apple product. That will change with the next wave of devices, however, as Governor Paul LePage announced last week that the Maine Department of Education had chosen Hewlett Packard as its preferred contractor.

Thousands of HP's ProBook 4440 laptops will enter Maine classrooms under the deal. These computers, which ship with Windows 8 pre-installed but are not touch-enabled, could signal an interesting reversal for Redmond and its rival in Cupertino. As iOS, Android and OS X have invaded the enterprise, Microsoft has seen its longtime stronghold become fragmented by BYOD forces. Windows 8 has so far been the company's foremost response. Apple, meanwhile, has traditionally been a strong education player. Maine's HP contract doesn't change that, but it gives other schools something to think about; LePage implied that Windows machines are better than Macs when it comes to preparing students for the tasks and interfaces they'll most commonly face in workplace.

[ How important are prices? Read Microsoft Store Slashes Windows 8 Device Prices. ]

"It is important that our students are using technology that they will see and use in the workplace," said LePage in a statement, adding that HP's laptops will give students experience with "the same technology they will see in their future careers."

The increased use of tablets in the enterprise, particularly the iPad, certainly challenges this notion. And the fact that the state chose a Windows 8 device -- Windows 7 is a far more prevalent business OS -- could also be fodder for debate. Still, Microsoft has been working to engage educators and to demonstrate how Windows can be used in the classroom. If schools outside Maine find these efforts persuasive, Redmond could strengthen a lucrative revenue stream, buying Windows 8 some breathing room until Windows Blue and new devices help the platform find its consumer footing.

A strong Win8 presence in schools will only help the consumer process along, as it will condition young users to the new Windows user interface known as Metro. The OS's critics have lambasted Metro as awkward and counterintuitive but its defenders say the new interface can be powerful if users commit to a short learning curve. Those defenders also say that touchscreens are an essential part of the Metro experience, however, so the ProBook's potential for success in this regard might be limited.

In a blog post that coincided with Maine's announcement, Microsoft VP Margo Day touted the company's growth in the education market, writing that Microsoft's share of the tablet market has quadrupled since Windows 8 was released, and that U.S. schools have been among the early adopters.

Though it's reasonable to assume that middle schoolers will gain workplace skills by using Windows, LePage suggested that economics were also a driving factor, noting that HP submitted the lowest bid. He also said schools will not be forced to use the ProBooks. Rather, they can choose from a range of devices that include iPads, MacBook Airs, and other Windows 8 tablets. That said, if a school chooses a device that costs more than the HP laptop, the school will have to pay the difference.

A report by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network stated that a number of teachers are uneasy about the change, citing prior professional development with OS X and affection for the Apple machines as the primary sources of discontent. Apple's original contract with Maine began in 2002 and was reportedly worth $37 million. It was extended in 2006 and 2009.

Outside of the recent development in Maine, Apple's education business has been robust. In 2012, Mac sales in the segment reached an all-time high, helping Apple to outperform the sagging PC market. Even more importantly, the company sold twice as many iPads to schools as it did Macs. Indeed, analysts began to suggest last fall that the iPad had cannibalized the PC's education sales. If Maine's attitude proves contagious, Microsoft could be in position to gain back its lost ground.

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jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 5:01:18 AM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
Wow, Maine must have had a ton of cash to be handing out Apple Laptops to each kid.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 12:00:28 PM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
Win7 may be more common today, but we're talking about K-12 students, by the time they enter the workforce after high school or college Win8 (or 9 or 10) will be very common and Win7 will be on the way out. Also, iToys and other toy tablets are not enterprise ready today and won't be for many years compared with real computers. It's too bad that writers like Mr. Endler have been suckered by the consumer-grade tablet craze that still cannot produce a decent PowerPoint presentation, manage a 100MB spreadsheet, can't be used to develop code for corporations, or do much of anything else other than read e-mail or type the most basic of memos (yes, I know they can do more than e-mail & memos, but in the end, real business is done on real computers).

As for touchscreens being necessary for Win8, that's a joke too. How exactly do you manage data in a huge spreadsheet with a touch screen? You don't. How do you build multimedia presentations? You don't. You need a keyboard and pointing device (either a mouse or pen and yes a pen can be used on a touch screen but you still need real input devices). Touchscreens are great for, again, e-mail and the basic memo, Facebook, browsing the web, but in the end, even the mainstream tablets, including the iPad, all have keyboard options and Win8 tablets all can use a mouse. Again, writers whinging about a non-issue. Computer literate users with a keyboard and mouse can get 10x the work done in 1/2 the time than even the most well-versed tablet user. I'd love to see any study that says otherwise.

Regarding Apple's devices. From iToys to Macs, they are simply not found on the majority of businesses for mainstream business applications. Apple's draconian controls over software make them business-UNfriendly and anyone who sees that changing anytime soon is dreaming. Apple will go out of business before they release their stranglehold on their customers' devices.

Maine made the right decision. Business friendly devices to train our future employees.
SMP
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SMP,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 10:45:17 PM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
It doesn't say it is a 1:1 deployment - only that laptops were handed out to pupils. I presume they have bought a limited number of carts and hand those out in selected classes and take them back after. That is the way most Apple Macbook and Windows laptop/desktop deployments work. They are too expensive to maintain and support otherwise.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2013 | 11:09:14 PM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
Actually, it is a 1:1 deployment. The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (which started the laptop program) asserts throughout its website that 1:1 dynamics are an important part of the state's vision.

Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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5/2/2013 | 11:29:28 PM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
Thanks for your thoughts-- lots of great points in your post, as well as a few items that need to be clarified.

Regarding iToys and consumer-grade tablet craze...

I agree with a lot what you said. And though you appear to have perceived otherwise, several of my articles have actually pointed out that tablets CAN'T replace traditional computers. Consumers are going to buy more tablets than PCs this year-- but millions upon millions of PCs are still going to be sold too. Tablets might have usurped some of the PC's traditional territory but PC's are far, far from obsolete.

I, for example, do most of my "real" work on either a Lenovo laptop or a (nearly antiquated, sadly) iMac. There are also some iOS and Windows Phone devices in my household as well-- but for "real" work, I don't use them very much.

That said, the fact that traditional PCs are still indispensable for certain tasks doesn't negate the fact that tablets have transformed a number of business verticals. It will be a long time before you'll find a business with no need for a PC. But it will become increasingly less common to see businesses that eschew tablets and other ultra-portables. PCs and Windows aren't dead-- and it's been ridiculous when some commentators have claimed otherwise. Even so, the sandbox in which PCs play has gotten a lot bigger and a lot more crowded. Tablets can't do everything that office workers and consumers need, but they can do a lot-- including, for some, "real" work.

Anyhow, here's an interesting update: I'm still waiting for some additional information, but from what I understand, Maine decided, after announcing the new contract, to renegotiate with HP. The result is evidently that the ProBooks will come with Windows 7 pre-installed, not Windows 8.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/3/2013 | 3:03:14 AM
re: Windows 8 Wins Maine Schools
I'm glad to hear your stand on them, but I still submit that "some" for real work is a very low % of viable business work. Maybe light inventor or POS work, but I'm betting the number is in the low single % points of what can be done on a toy vs. a real computer.

Our local county bought 1500 Dell Latitudes 3 years ago for the local high school (we have only one) and bought them with WinXP, insufficient RAM, and no MS Office. The school system's IT folks had no idea what they were doing, budgeted woefully insufficient funds, and now they're stuck with laptops that were supposed to last 5 years (a year after XP is retired). I hope Maine hasn't made similar poor decisions. If the idea is to train middle school kids on what systems they'll likely see in 7-11 years, their decision to go with 7 will be as shortsighted as my county's. Honestly, I think ours did it because the IT staff wasn't up to speed on Win7 (and clearly not on XP either given how they spec'd the systems). One can only wonder if Maine is in the same boat. Gotta love governments and their decisions.

Thanks again...
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