Will $99 Moby tablet swim or sink?

“I’m not saying that the product is doomed,” Dawson blogged. “However, I think that this particular device may have a tougher battle to break into the mainstream than its price alone would suggest. When we can get review units in hand, the features, usability, and price will all need to be compelling.”

Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology in Texas’s Plano Independent School District, had a different concern.

“Unfortunately this device, like so many others, will be expected to provide more application use than it was designed for—so an operating system that supports legacy applications will be a requirement,” Hirsch told eSchool News.

He explained that this kind of expectation is what happened in the netbook market and resulted in increased costs and slower operating experiences.

“The negative comments follow quickly when the software applications operate slowly, or not at all, on a device that was never designed to run those applications. That will happen to this device, as well as the iPad, unless user expectations are properly set by technology leaders whose job it is to provide that level of understanding,” he said.

As for replacing textbooks, Hirsch said that once educators can ensure that every student has access to a device that appropriately displays learning resources required by state or local education agencies, “then yes, it can replace textbooks. Until that time, students need to have access to required learning resources that often are print-based.”

Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose, Calif., was cautiously optimistic about the Moby and its potential for education.

“I do see this as an option if we can get general consensus to digitize textbooks,” Liebman said. “[And] I like the idea of easy access outside of the classroom to other kinds of information and data. However, the secret is the added features of note taking, highlighting, and all of the other things we do when using textbooks to help us learn.”

Though observers are wary about yet another portable reading device with computing capabilities, all agree the $99 price tag would be too cheap to ignore.

“The plans are a possible setback to tablet makers like Apple and HP,” said Electronista, a technology news and product review web site.

“Their platforms have potentially stronger software but will cost multiple times more, possibly excluding them out of those schools where cost is a key worry. Distribution and format support are Marvell’s key problems, as the company is relatively new to making complete products and doesn’t have the sales experience that should help both the iPad and the future HP slate.”

Hirsch said an influx of similar devices isn’t a bad thing.

“It’s always good news for us in education to have manufacturers provide new options for devices that give access to learning resources. Of course, in a case such as this, where the price is less than the cost of a graphing calculator, and the feature list contains much of what anyone could hope to have in a portable device, the proof is in a working concept,” he said.

“Until that concept is available, the conversation is strictly speculative. It’s easy enough to say that if these features can be delivered at the $100 price with good reliability, then yes, absolutely, this has a great shot at large implementation.”



Christopher Dawson on ZDNet


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