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Netbooks Hang Strong In Classrooms

Netbooks will continue to lead tablets and laptops in education sales this year, predicts ABI Research.

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The education market remains a stronghold for netbooks, according to a recent report by ABI Research. InformationWeek Education interviewed ABI analyst Joshua Flood by email about this phenomenon.

InformationWeek: ABI found that netbooks continue to sell well in education markets. How well are they selling? What are the top five device types you track in the education market, by share?

Joshua Flood: Netbook shipments in the education market are projected to increase from 5.5 million in 2012 to 5.7 million in 2013, a 4% increase year-on-year. We only covered netbooks, media tablets [such as the iPad] and laptops in the report. By comparison, the numbers for media tablets and laptops in education are expected to increase a bigger percent in 2013 -- but they will still lag behind netbooks.

IW: How are you defining the education market?

Flood: Computing device shipments are only through education channel sales and do not include consumer purchases of products intended for the use in classrooms.

IW: You note that many of the largest vendors no longer sell netbooks. What significant vendors are left?

Flood: OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), Intel/Lenovo, PC Classmate CTL are the major ones. There are a few smaller vendors also dedicated to the education market. An example of a tablet vendor purely focused on education is LearnPad (Avantis Systems).

IW: Will the reduction in competition affect netbook pricing? What about potential innovations?

Flood: I don't believe the reduction of pricing will have a major effect on netbook pricing. Organizations like OLPC and Intel's education computing program are based more upon achieving the objective of higher shipments, and increasing prices because there are [fewer] competitors doesn't really work with their aim.

Computer Devices in Education Market

An example of OLPC's latest XO-4.0 netbook, I believe the non-touch version, is approximately $190 and the touch version is $210. I believe the potential innovation will occur in how these companies/organizations develop their netbook solutions over the coming years and begin developing media tablets.

IW: Why do netbooks continue to be successful in education markets?

Flood: The affordability and potential use of computing devices has enhanced learning in several ways:

-- Students can access learning material relevant to their level of knowledge and understanding.

-- Learners can work through relevant material and modules at their own pace with little supervision. Previously, everyone had to keep pace with the teacher and some children could fall behind or lose track, leading to distraction and wasted time.

Computer Devices in Education Market

-- Children in disadvantaged communities and regions previously unable to afford computing devices now have a chance to develop their computer skills.

-- Class sizes can be much larger as children are focused on their own learning targets. The U.K. education authority recently introduced academies with advanced ICT capabilities with an abundance of computing devices and it is not unheard of for some core subject classes to have in excess of 90 pupils in one room.

-- Different learning styles can be incorporated into the software and applications to cope with different environments and educational levels.

-- Learners can receive instantaneous feedback, encouraging them to progress and improve.

-- Students can obtain computer skills and knowledge of the Internet that will help throughout their lives and careers.

-- In advanced education, students can reduce travel time and travel costs by studying off site or remotely.

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