Student views of the iPad2 and tablet revolution. Do we really just need a Dell Inspirion Duo?

March 3, 2011 by · 9 Comments
Filed under: Netbooks, Social Computing 

As many of you will know yesterday was the launch of the latest Apple ‘must-have’ device-  iPad2. During a lesson I was teaching a student started a conversation which surprised me a little. Seeing I had an iPhone as I checked the time one student asked if I was planning to but the iPad2. After suggesting that I would probably end up buying one as I have a technology addiction I was surprised by their response. When I asked if they would like to buy one the quickly responded that ‘The iPad is surely the most pointless device I have ever seen’.

Thinking this might be a faiRly isolated response I asked the whole class what their views were on the ipad and tablets in general. To my surprise 18 out of 21 didnt want a tablet device of any form. The main reason for rejecting the tablet revolution? 16 of the students wanted a real keyboard. I then showed them a device which is a tablet/netbook hybrid- The Dell Inspiron Duo which can be seen below.

The response when I showed this video? One student summed it up when they said, ‘The iPad is much cooler but give me the Dell any day for studying and surfing the net.’

Dell brings the Netbook and the Tablet together. Creating a perfect learning device with Dell Duo?

October 26, 2010 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Digital Era, e-learning, Netbooks 

As many of you will know I was (and still am) a big advocate of a the Netbook as an effective learning device for schools. Much of the fanfare around Netbooks has faded as the world has gone tablet crazy but Netbooks have not disappeared just yet.  Whilst I am also a big tablet fan and love the use of One Note in this format I still believe that the lack of a real keyboard will hold them back as devices in the educational market. There are of course flip tablets with a keyboard which can then lay fully flat in tablet mode. These hinges seem more susceptible to damage in a school environment as I found out on a recent visit to a school in the Midlands where 15% of all tablet pcs were being repaired at any one time.

Then I saw this very ingenious take on converting a Netbook into a tablet and it all started to make sense. Take a look at the video.

I love the simplicity and ease with which the tablet becomes a Netbook or ‘mobile computing device’ as Dell puts it. You will also notice that Netbook specs continue to rise and with a dual core atom processor on board and HD  this multi purpose device is more likely to be successful in meeting the needs of learners. Let me know your thoughts.

An open letter to Samsung re: Samsung N510 issue. My mobile is switched on.

February 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Netbooks 

Dear Samsung

thank you for getting back to our supplier regarding the issue with your faulty Samsung N510′s within 1 working hours of me sending you the first open letter. This is indeed a very speedy response and you saved me the cost of a stamp which I am sure will please our school finance officer who is currently doing her frantic end of year sums. My nan did after all say, ‘Michael, look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.’

 Our supplier has informed me that you will be sending an engineer to our site to repair the 12 faulty netbooks and inspect the remaining stock for defects. This is excellent news and I am sure it will help to restore the respect we have both for yourselves as a company and your netbooks. We hope to be able to write positive news to the 12,322 people who have so far read the first open letter and will doubtless be keen to see how this story ends.

One point of concern is we have not yet had direct contact from you to confirm this despite our supplier providing you with all my contact details. I have just checked my mobile and it is off silent and awaiting the xylophone sound which should herald good news. It would of course be an excellent story to write of how you visited in half term and resolved all our issues so that no further disruption to learning took place. It would also ensure that I do not receive any more emails like the one I received from a teacher we shall call Mr P who is understandably upset with the current context. I have displayed the email below for your perusal:

Hi Mike or Sylvia,

(it is disappointing that he does not know my name after 4 years at the school)

Not sure who to send this to but I’m afraid I have a complaint about the netbooks.

I was recently given room 16 with the netbooks due to another year group needing a computer suite.  This would be fine if we actually had a full set of netbooks but there were only 17 due to the problem with the hinges. I had the same issue two weeks earlier with only 20 netbooks and was told it was being dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Surely we cannot continue with this? When will Samsung deal with the problem?

Many thanks

Mr P*

* names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I look forward to your swift resolution of this issue.

Best wishes

Mike Herrity (mobile is on)

An open letter to Samsung re: Samsung N510. Lessons from the Prius.

February 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Netbooks 

Dear Samsung

As you will know we have recently become customers of yours through our purchase of netbooks, specifically the Samsung N510. Since October we have purchased two sets of these Samsung N510 netbooks with three years warranty. My rationale for purchasing your netbooks is well founded given your reputation in this category but not without challenges. Our school has only ever purchased Dell machines in the last ten years due to the reputation they have established in the school as a provider of high quality, powerful and durable machines. Persuading budget holders to switch to Samsung was very difficult but your reputation in the netbook category gave me great confidence.

Despite this I now find myself with an unravelling netbook deployment strategy in which 20% of the machines we have purchased are currently unusable and have been so for up to 4 weeks. This has caused significant challenges for teachers who can no longer provide 1-1 machines to students. Whilst I appreciate that problems can occur and do not advocate the use of social media to constantly complain about companies the initial lack of action and the recent nature of your response to our issue leaves me compelled to take action.

Within 10 weeks of rolling out your Samsung N510 netbooks one of our IT support staff noticed a machine with a split hinge. Given the context of the school with very limited behavioural issues and co-operative students it seemed highly unlikely that this was caused by a student misusing the machine. Over the following 2 weeks we have had 6 more Samsung N510 netbooks also with broken hinges. Having reported the first machine broken we were told this was not covered by the warranty and we would have to pay to repair the machine. We have contested this judgement and referred this to our supplier.

We now have 12 Samsung N510 netbooks with hinge problems in total with the same fault and your recent response to our staff via the supplier has led to this letter. Despite our claims that the Samsung N510 has a design flaw or issue with build quality we have today been told that you have had no other issues identified with the machine from other customers. I find this an incredulous response and inappropriate in the context of the body of knowledge currently available on the Internet. I would therefore like to support your enquiry with supplementary material.

Could I ask you to take a moment and look at one of the many search engines available online as an evidence base for this enquiry? I have listed a number which you may want to consider.

Given that we have a hinge problem with the Samsung N510 I started my search with the phrase Samsung N510 hinge problem. You will notice that Google has already kindly made a suggestion of the enquiry by the time ‘Samsung N510 h’ is entered into the search box. The short url for this search is 

From here you will find 16,200 search items returned and whilst I have not looked at each page the first three give a strong suggestion that there is a problem with the design or build of your Samsung N510 Netbooks. As a visual illustration please see below.

Our Smasung N510 hinge problem is identical to the one shown in the clip above and whilst for a short time the hinge can be clipped back over a very short period of time they become permenantly broken.

Samsung my issue with this incident is not that you have a problem with a machine which has impacted on us significantly. It is that your response via our supplier suggests that nobody else has identified this as an issue and it is our fault. This seems highly unlikely and has left us considering the return of all our netbooks and switching to another supplier. Whilst I have waited for a suitable response from you I have not shared this problem with a wider audience as I would like to  give you the opportunity to resolve this problem to our satisfaction. However 4 weeks since our first return and the recent response above is simply not acceptable.

I will leave you with the comments of a colleague on twitter who is considering a major investment in netbooks for their school. Being already aware of this issue with the Samsung N510 he said ‘Its stopping me looking at either for our scheme. 120 laptops a year heading to Dell I think. #Vostro V13’. It would be great to hear from you to confirm that you accept there is an issue with the Samsung N510 and will resolve this to our satisfaction. Recent media coverage of the Toyata recalls should surely confirm that whilst  problems will always arise with products it is the way in which the company responds to these problems which dictates how we percieve them.

You can contact me by email if you would like to discuss this further.

yours sincerely

Mike Herrity

One Note in Education the catalyst for netbooks

June 5, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Netbooks 

If you are new to One Note as an application then it might be useful to start by explaining exactly what it is. One Note is a note taking package which allows information gathering of text, notes, audio and video as well as web capture in a continuous format without the boundaries of page breaks. At the same time it allows people to work together as multiple editors to enable multi-user collaboration. In its original form One Note was devised for ideal use with tablet technology and in many ways this is why it has not taken off as much as it should have done as tablet technology has had limited adoption. At the same time One Note does have a significant fan base amongst people not using tablets because of its sheer flexibility and strengths as a note taking tool. Take a look at this demo to see how One Note is used without a tablet.

I think One Note is an excellent product and with the emergence of tablet technology on netbooks this software has a great chance to make a major impact in education. Last year I saw a series of videos showing how One Note can be used in the classroom and I wanted to show you these on the blog. The first is a video from a school in the US where tablet laptops have been in use for a long time.


What I really like about the video is the teachers are not trying to overuse the product they are simply sticking to the strengths of the product- note taking within a framework, digital sharing and collaboration. The second video is from a secondary school in Norway where audio, web and tablet writing are used by groups.


Although some elements of the video for me are a little contrived (I would have explained the task in the room rather than add the audio!) this gives a fair idea of some of the uses of One Note. As a tool I think One Note will continue to grow in use and offers the potential to get rid of exercise books if used with a tablet netbook.

Given it is a Friday I thought I would show you a couple of very old videos used to promote One Note in its 2003 version. I found them a little entertaining and hope they make you smile as we run into the weekend.


The Netbook and why it is not a UMPC but the greatest change in computing in a decade.

March 11, 2009 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Netbooks 

I have had a genuinely crazy amount of discussion over the last 24 hours with loads of emails, twitters and blogs about Netbooks. It seems it really is the hot potato of the moment. I even had a tweet from Sascha Pallenberg today which was great. If you dont know who this guy is he is recognised in the industry as the authority on Netbooks. I picked up his story line in a Robert Scoble interview around the time of CES in Las Vegas. Sascha wrote a tweet today which said thx mike ;) . Great article and spot on! I wish VIA would come out with something better then VX800. It would help a lot.

I have had some great responses from a number of people across the country and worldwide but wanted to focus my blog post for the day on one particular comment from Ian Guest of Sheffield. I really appreciate the time he has taken to write a very detailed comment and wanted to respond with some of my views. In essence Ian questions the way people are starting to see netbooks as laptop replacements and instead refers to them as UMPCs. Have a look at Ian’s very robust view here.

Ian Guest Comment

This comment really provoked me to think through my own view on netbooks and what they actually are as I was going through my day. It made me realise that I actually have some very strongly held views which differ from Ian’s view above. I agree that when the original 4inch screen Asus eee pc arrived on the market it was indeed a UMPC and changed everybody’s view on devices. However the argument starts to fall down as you look at where the market has developed to, is going now and where it will end up.

In the last year we have seen the movement towards 7, 8, 9 and then 10 inch machines. Asus predict that 95% of their sales of netbooks will be 10 inch machines with the other 5% coming from a niche industry using 7 inch machines. In effect some experts think Asus will leave the market in 8 and 9 inch netbooks. Why has this happened? My view is that people like the idea of very small machines but the reality of their experience has led to them wanting ‘something a little bigger’ as it would be ‘the perfect size’. As companies have responded sales have moved to the larger netbooks and the market has changed. The customer wants the good of netbooks (light and cheap) but in a bigger size. What I am therefore saying is I think it is no longer possible to describe the netbook as a UMPC. Check out this view from Michael Kwan on how we define a netbook for more.

Ian’s other major comment is that a netbook isn’t intended to replace a standard laptop. My own view is netbooks were always going to evolve upwards towards a size and power where they would fully replace laptops. Although this wasn’t seen in the market it was an inevitable driving force for a number of reasons. If you think about it from these questions it may help to see why this was inevitable. Who wouldn’t want a primary machine which costs half the price of their current one if it could be powerful enough to do what most of us do- low power tasks.Who wouldn’t want a very light primary machine which is half the weight of their current brick if one existed? Who wouldn’t want a small device which could more easily fit into a casual bag if the screen was big enough to browse the web for long periods.

When you frame the debate like this my own view is the netbook will be the most significant change in computing in the last decade. I believe this because:

  1. The ferocity of the competition will continue to drive price down below $200 for a good spec machine.
  2. The demand from customers will drive size up to 12/13 inches making them small versions of laptops.
  3. As the market saturates netbook makers will be forced to compete on specification as all room for cutting margins disappears.

The end product of all this will be 90% of current computer users moving away from laptops and desktops and having a netbook as a primary machine. It will of course not happen overnight but we will see this in the next 3 years. What the market is really looking for is not the gimmick that is a UMPC but their current laptops with all the power and functionality at half the weight and cost.

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