Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tablet PCs Getting Campus Tryouts: Mobile Computing Device Said to Launch New Era in Personal Computing

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Tablet PCs Getting Campus Tryouts: Mobile Computing Device Said to Launch New Era in Personal Computing

Article excerpt

When Microsoft chairman Bill Gates presided over the introduction of the Tablet PC and its Microsoft operating system in 2002, he declared the mobile computing device, which features a touchpad screen that recognizes handwriting, to be launching a new era in personal computing. Citing sluggish sales by the computer hardware vendors who make the devices, industry observers say Tablet PCs haven't quite lived up to the hype of their early days. Only 500,000 were sold from the November 2002 debut through the end of 2003, while some 39.5 million laptops were sold in 2003. Tablet PCs are expected to reach up to 1 million units shipped in 2004, according to market researcher International Data Corp.

This fall, the Tablet PC gets an industry-backed tryout at the University of Virginia (UVA), an effort that aims to help stimulate the market for the mobile notebooks among students and faculty members. About 425 students in biochemistry, psychology and statistics courses will receive a new, free Tablet PC, courtesy of Microsoft and Thomson Learning, a software and publishing firm based in Stamford, Conn. The pilot project, involving UVA's College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, will produce enhanced digital content and learning applications for Tablet PCs. The pilot will run for at least two semesters starting tall 2004.

Although a number of colleges and universities have begun student and faculty projects that use Tablet PCs, the UVA pilot will represent the largest effort to date in higher education that includes Microsoft backing. Tablet PCs typically can be purchased retail for about $2,000. "In this instance, with the help of Microsoft and Thomson Learning, students will have immediate access to course content whether in the classroom, lab, dorm room or other locations on campus," said Dr. Edward L. Ayers, dean of arts and sciences at UVA.

As a compact, portable device, the Tablet PC, which is about the size of a typical spiral notebook, is said to add a new dimension to the classroom. The Tablet PC allows students to scrawl notes and draw diagrams onto the screen with the touch of a pen-like stylus. The Tablet PC differs from a conventional laptop computer in that it gives users the power to incorporate handwriting into the personal computing experience. While professors lecture or explain subject matter, students are able to use the Tablet PCs to write lecture notes and save them electronically. They are also able to access online exercises and simulations in the classroom; and could develop three-dimensional chemical structures and statistical models, and embed them into their lecture notes. …

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