Are Tablets Made for the Education Market Doomed?

| June 1, 2011 | 8 Comments
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A couple of weeks ago, tablet maker enTourage announced that it was ceasing production of its pocket e-reader eDGe and was shutting its online e-bookstore. Although a consumer electronics device, the enTourage eDGe was aimed squarely at the educational market, inking a number of deals with major textbook providers and joining the Blackboard Alliance Program, hoping to get a leg up into the sector.

But to no avail apparently, as the closure of the e-bookstore and the termination of the eDGe’s manufacturing and sales suggest.

Some consumers had complained that the books available in the Entourage Student store were priced too high — higher than the prices of e-textbooks available on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And while enTourage also had its own Android App store, it too suffered from a lack of sales and downloads.

Why make a distinction between a consumer product and one that’s aimed solely at the education market?

Pointing to the recent demise of another dual-screen e-reader, the Kno, which announced in April that it too was ceasing production, Michael Koz from Good E-Reader wonders if dual-screen tablets are doomed. Despite their innovative two-screen design, both machines were largely panned by the press for being clunky, too heavy, and too expensive — particularly in comparison with other e-readers and tablets on the market. And consumers seem to have agreed.

But was it just a matter of the dual-screen design that was the problem here? Or was it that these two devices were aimed at the education market?

Last week’s Department of Education notice to campuses to ensure that new devices are available to all students serves as a reminder that there are still significant obstacles to the accessibility of many e-readers and tablets for disabled students, making it challenging for schools themselves to adopt these devices broadly.

Furthermore, ownership of tablets and e-readers remains low among high school seniors and college students — the primary target of the enTourage eDGe and Kno devices. According to a recent survey by the Pearson Foundation, just 4% of college-bound high school seniors and only 7% of college students own tablets, although nearly 20% say they plan to buy one within the next 6 months. Cost is a likely the determining factor here.

But do these prospective tablet buyers want an education-oriented tablet? Or will they opt to buy a consumer-oriented tablet — an iPad or an Android tablet — and then load it with educational apps and electronic textbooks? Why make a distinction between a consumer product and one that’s aimed solely at the education market, especially if the goal is to integrate the best of user-friendly, popular devices that students already want and like to use into the learning process?

The latter seems much more likely, and while analysts are predicting 2011 to be the year of the tablet, the demise of both the Kno and the enTourage eDGe doesn’t make that post-PC future look terribly good for education-only devices, particularly heavy dual-screen ones.

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  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    I can see where e-readers aimed at the education market might be doomed due to significant penetration and awareness of the consumer-focused Kindle and Nook. But more general-purpose edu tablets, such as Brainchild’s Kineo, which use non-proprietary operating systems (in the Kineo’s case, a flavor of Android) yet are somewhat more rugged and have other classroom-specific hardware features may find a market, especially in K-12 where the student “consumers” may not yet have purchased a device for themselves.

    Brainchild says it sold out of its first production run of 5,000 Kineos in April, and while an early indicator, it might be a positive one.

  • http://blog.k12.com Scott Holm

    I was optimistic about the Kno, but I see exactly why it didn’t succeed. The iPad is such a wonderful multi-purpose device that can (or could) do everything the Kno does, and more. The iPad is also at a sweet spot in terms of pricing, so the Kno just couldn’t compete. I do think tablets that are specifically made for niches (including education) have a monumental challenge at launch. If you can’t compete with the iPad on price, features or available content, then it’s just not going to fly. 

  • http://twitter.com/edtechdev Doug Holton

    I like android and ipad tablets, but in regards to use in schools, they are costlier and less functional than regular laptops or netbooks.  You can get an asus netbook (running windows, ubuntu, or meego) for as little as $200, or a chromebook for $20 a month, compared to the minimum $500 price of most tablets.  It seems to be mostly richer school districts or departments that are buying ipads for students.

    Also, these tablets at this point are primarily leisure devices for media consumption and games.  The two things that made the Kno and Edge devices “educational”, however, were primarily the integrated e-book/textbook system, and the inclusion of a stylus (taking notes, doing math, drawing, etc.).

    But I tried a pocket edge, and it was way too slow and laggy and out of date (android 1.5 I think), along with being a bit clunky, and really the 2nd e-ink screen was unnecessary.

    Tablet PCs like the hp tm2t are very useful for education (at least in higher ed), and students much prefer them to the ipad or android tablets, but they are even costlier at this point ($650 or more).

  • http://twitter.com/ordimario Mario Rios

    La verdad es que los grandes del mercado como Amazon y Google estan dominado todo y no dejando espacio para la diversidad de otros proveedores.

  • Kamar Shah

     Consumer technology products often tap into markets they weren’t originally intended for – but when it comes to education, today’s students, faculty and educators deserve more than unintentional success, http://mysparktech.com/blog/why-make-a-distinction-between-a-consumer-tablet-and-one-that’s-aimed-at-the-education-market/

    • theWayISeeEducation

      Education tablets require more than the ability to play Angry Birds on a tablet ( sorry no offense to that cool game). A tablet that can give a student the ability to emulate everything he does in a traditional learning model – taking notes and sharing with other buddies,highlighting,dog-eared pages, submit assignments on the fly to the teacher though an integrate Learning Management System and backing up Student Content so that he does not lose sleep over a vacation with pangs of fear that his junior year’s content is all gone. If you notice we are talking an analogy everything a student does in a traditional class room based learning ( with lockers for kids for tucking away those important stuff) to what an educational tablet does. Now, that requires a different “Tablet” altogether.
      Tablets(both the iPads and the androids) today are designed to be still media centric devices – media that is offline or online and more of a web browsing experience – When did we last see an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab advertise anything apart from its features of HD Playback,Real time streaming of YoTube and gaming – All necessary ingredients of a SmartPhone morphed into a larger version with a 10 inch LCD and touch.Mr.Shah has hit it bang on target when he elaborates more on the needs of Educators,Students and Faculty. No Wonder, Miss waters seemed to have missed a pie from Porter’s Competitive Strategy model and the dimension of “Strategy based on Need” which MySpark is trying to fulfill. Good luck Sparklers.

  • http://affiliates.sitesell.com/Incredible0.html Business Solutions

    I can imagine a positive tool such as this being doomed for any reason.

  • http://www.bradfields.com/ Wleebaird73

    I suggest you visit MyKuno.com to check out a tablet device that was truly built for K-12 Education.  If you are interested in seeing or purchasing it in Illinois, please contact myself.