Finally, some decent Windows 8 tablets at BETT (plus other goodies)

Yes it’s that time again, BETT has been and gone for another year! For those who haven’t heard of the show it’s the yearly edu-tech pilgrimage many of us make to check out what’s new on the horizon and maybe on our order forms over the next couple of months. I always tend to come away with a couple of items that grab my attention and this year was no different.

Windows 8 tablets finally come of age?

lenovo-thinkpad-8-full-2Lenovo was one of the first stands I found (big ceiling signs do help I guess). Last year I was keen on their Tablet2 and Helix from a design perspective but neither quite hit the price \ performance sweet spot but this time round I think they’ve got some killer products coming up.

First and foremost was the ThinkPad 8 demo unit their technical guy brought over, apparently only just been released for trials (indeed the sticker on the back stated the demo unit hadn’t been approved yet). It’s a very slick 8″ tablet in the Toshiba Encore mould but with noticeably nicer build quality.

Coupled with a quad core Bay Trail Atom it looks a much more usable device for day-to-day workloads than previous attempts that really suffered on a performance front.

Even better news that 10″ and (?) 11″ versions will be following soon as I’m still a bit unsure about whether Windows with legacy apps can really be that productive on an 8″ screen.

Elsewhere wandering through the Dell stand I spotted what looked from a distance like a Microsoft Surface on the table. Going for a closer look it turns out to be the Dell Venue 11 Pro, which judging by Google results has been out for a month or so but had snuck under my radar. Again with the quad core Bay Trail it’s hitting a much more acceptable price point but with a similar design to the Surface range and that’s a great combination in my book.

Dell-Venue-11-Pro

Alongside Windows 8.1 we’re finally seeing the Windows tablet market in the way it needed to be a year or so ago. Sales figures for this year will be very interesting reading in 12 months time I think as the barriers that have held back Windows tablets until now are disappearing fast. Whether it’s happened too late remains to be seen…

Goodbye Smartboard, hello touchscreen?

Looking around the various AV stands large touchscreen displays also seem to be maturing to the point where installing classic whiteboard \ projector combos may soon be a thing of the past. Side by side the screens give a much crisper, brighter image, better contrast and (supposedly) 50,000 hours life. The manufacturers reckon they’re strong enough to withstand flying objects too (hopefully we won’t have to find out!)

The two manufacturers that stood out were Smart with their E70 and CTouch with a range of devices.

The E70 is a very slick device and as expected comes with the well known Smart Notebook software as part of the bundle. Touch worked well and comes with all the connectivity you’d hope for with HDMI and suchlike on the back. When you see the screen side by side with a projector the difference in image quality is really noticeable, although I guess that’s why Smart did it! CTouch were interesting in that they have a very solid line-up of screens of varying sizes with built-in PCs so the whole thing is ready to go. The only downside would be the need to buy a Notebook license as I’m no t convinced putting a copy we use elsewhere would be in the rules.

ctouch_mobile_trolleys

One thing I was hoping to see was one of these screens also packing Wi-Fi connectivity so they could function as an AirPlay (and Miracast?) receiver for tablets to broadcast their display on. This would save buying an Apple TV or similar for each screen whilst giving staff and students an easy way of presenting from their own devices. The search continues…

e-learning extras

The new update to Planet eStream with a more modern, customisable interface looked useful, as did new abilities within the digital signage side of the product. Will be keeping an eye out for when that gets released in the coming weeks. They also had a rather nifty motorised stand for tablets that tracks  a hand-held microphone, perfect for shared Lync conference calls we’re trialling at present… might have to get one of those in on trial.

Moodle 2.6 seems to be the next release on the radar for us to aim for. My colleague spotted a useful-sounding student portal add-on and coupled with the more recent touch-friendly themes becoming available it should keep us moving forward nicely 🙂

Unusually not much to report on Office 365 from the Microsoft stand, it seems like the future is small but regular feature updates rather than a Wave 15-esque release. Personally I’m hoping for some updates to SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint to make them a bit more user friendly and flexible but more on that another time.

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