Why the Touchpad is good for CTOs and instructional designers [guest post] | webOS Nation
 
 

Why the Touchpad is good for CTOs and instructional designers [guest post] 39

by Derek Kessler Thu, 19 May 2011 3:37 pm EDT

Hervé St-Louis works as an IT architect/instructional designer creating mobile apps and e-learning programs for a leading educational developer in Calgary, Canada. He just obtained his master’s thesis in strategic studies and cybersecurity (Twitter and Iran). By night he makes apps for iOS, Android and webOS (ComicBookBin, TED).

Platform-centric apps offer opportunities for CTOs and instructional designers to deliver e-learning and enable keynotes to a variety of end-users on tablets. However, based on my research, only BlackBerry QNX and HP webOS can fulfill the needs of most educational, institutional, and corporate clients trying to maximize training and presentations on tablets.

The world of e-learning and corporate training has been in chaos and catch-up mode since the release of the iPad in 2010. For years, Flash and PowerPoint were the means by which the majority of learning system content was delivered on protected websites for educational, institutional, and corporate users. In the office, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations were the preferred means by which business keynotes and lower-end educational learning modules were used. While smartphones have demonstrated the ability to be used for instructional design, they had not been ported en masse by instructional designers and their clients. When Steve Jobs declared Adobe Flash persona non grata on iOS devices, he set in motion a scramble in an entire industry trying to adapt to end-users’ preferences for tablets.

The moment the iPad was announced, many end-users asked clients whom I work for about the availability of their learning contents on tablets. Tablets offer many advantages over regular computers for educational, institutional and corporate training. For example, users in specific industries such as health and financial services have contractual obligations to take specific training every year that are verified and tracked by their employers and regulatory bodies as part of their employments and sometimes yearly certifications. In some industries, such as oil and gas, this is part of a regulatory process mandated by governments. For example, that roughneck working on an oil rig has to demonstrate that he understands the security regulations put in place by authorities, or he’s out of a job. Motivating end-users to take their online training can be difficult because it usually interferes with their regular schedules. Cloud-connected tablets alleviate the problem somewhat by allowing end-users to pursue their online training when it is more suitable for them, be it at an airport, while waiting for a connecting flight, or in bed at night.

Tablets are also perfectly suited for business presentations. They are lighter and allow users to make last minute edits on the go. A tablet can be all that is needed by a user making a business presentation. The user can have a few relevant files on the device, like spreadsheets, texts documents and presentations. Email, note-taking, calendar as well as full internet access are also readily available on tablets.

But not all tablets are created equal. I’ve been tasked recently to play the role of Chief Technology Officer for a major client to help them figure out their tablet strategy in regards to e-learning and presentations. This client has always relied on DVDs and PowerPoint presentations with embedded videos to serve end-users. The training format of this client calls for individual learning modules to train instructors who will then train larger groups of end-users with presentation software or DVDs connected to projectors.

It soon became apparent that tablets running the two most popular mobile platforms on the market right now (iOS and Google Android) were unsuitable for this client and possibly a majority of educational, institutional and corporate clients in a similar position. Tablets running Microsoft Windows 7 were also considered but failed to meet the needs of my client. The only mobile platforms that offered value for my clients are Blackberry QNX and HP webOS. Here’s why.

Apple iOS

Apple is now in its second generation tablet with the iPad 2. The device has improved ergonomics compared to the first version. The iPad line is clearly the most popular tablet device on the market and the one with the best support by third parties in the forms of apps and accessories. The main problem faced with iOS devices is the lack of support from Apple for medium size educational, institutional, and corporate clients. Short of having an organization that has 500 employees, Apple will not allow any of my clients to deliver and install their own e-learning apps and bypass iTunes. This is a serious problem for obvious reasons. Many businesses offer training to other businesses and bypass the consumer market totally to avoid confusion and inadvertent leaks. A variety of configurations and prepaid subscriptions enable end-users to use their learning modules without having to pay directly for the training module. For example, the app the roughneck will use to fulfill his oil rig security training has already been paid by his employer. An app like that has no business sitting next to Angry Birds on iTunes. While Apple’s iPad tablets are very interesting, forcing my clients to use iTunes to distribute their apps to end-users is a no go. I’ve been in contact several times with Apple and they will aren’t about to budge on this nor take the needs of corporate clients seriously.

Android

Side-loading of apps is supported by Android, an important need of most of my clients (preferred method being full integration of software and hardware before the user even gets the device). In the past, a huge cost to my clients was technical support of end-users using a variety of computers and systems often times that did not meet the minimum requirements needed to run an e-learning module or even the latest version of a PowerPoint presentation. A main advantage of tablets is that through large information technology (IT) resellers, like Insight or CDW, tablets can be pre-installed with the proper apps and resold at a discount to clients. Or in the case of internal training, they can be pre-configured by the IT department.

With Android, this is a problem. There are so many Android tablets already released or scheduled to be released, that choosing one specific device and securing proper support from one vendor and proper supply of tablets in the thousands is difficult. Here’s something that happened to a school recently: Because of budget restraints, the school had enough funding to provide Android tablets to half of the students. The other half would receive tablets later when the budget for the next fiscal year was approved. When that budget was approved, it was difficult for the school to purchase the same Android tablet it had obtained six months prior. It had to settle on another model by different manufacturer ,creating a lot of problems for the IT department and resentment with students and teachers. As tech geeks we usually welcome the fast-paced product turnaround on platforms like Android, but for institutional and corporate clients this can be the source of major headaches. Even if my clients were able to bulk order enough Android tablets from one maker, what’s to stop an end-user from calling IT support and demanding an explanation as to why his year-old Archos tablet running an old version of Android cannot be used in lieu of the latest Samsung device we recommend?

Microsoft Windows 7

Some of the problems with Microsoft Windows tablets running the full desktop operating system are similar to those with Android. There are many models some from large merchants, and some like HP are seemingly continually out of stock. They also run full desktop operating systems instead of customized apps created to take advantage of a mobile platform in a controlled environment. The whole point of using apps for e-learning is that the instructional designers control and can predict the full user experience without having to worry about users licneses, drivers, and the introduction of random unsupported configurations. Using apps on tablets made by a single manufacturer in control of both the software and the hardware offers the best solution. The other problem with Windows-based devices is that, some users would rather use Macs or Linux computers than Windows. In a way, the ubiquity of PCs is part of the problem with PCs.

QNX on the BlackBerry PlayBook

The BlackBerry Playbook was released barely a month ago but offers some of the best features for my clients. First the Playbook has one integrated environment with support for several programming languages. The Flash-based development environment also means that existing contents can be easily reused for a Playbook app. Were my clients to adopt QNX as their platform for e-learning, they would also benefit from strong presentation capabilities: the Playbook’s Dataviz office suite contains an app that can play PowerPoint presentations and allow the presenter to view his notes on his own device, while screens connected through micro HDMI only show the contents of the slides. This is a great feature. Connections to projectors seem easily feasible, although it’s not clear if presenter’s notes continue to be hidden with regular projectors.

Research in Motion already works with large IT resellers and therefore there is a potential for the company to offer pre-installed tablets to clients for a discount. However, the Playbook is the first non-phone/non-pager device from RIM and therefore the Canadian company does not have the habit of delivering preconfigured devices for smaller clients. Because of the issues with the lack of internal email and personal information management apps, some clients may be reticent to adopt the Playbook. Another concern is the extent of support for the Playbook that RIM will guarantee in the future. In less than a year, RIM has launched BlackBerry OS 6, QNX and now BlackBerry OS 7. BlackBerry OS 6 is no longer supported, and OS 7 isn’t likely to hit even the most recently released BlackBerry devices. The speed at which RIM abandoned support for BlackBerry OS 6 is concerning for clients that have to make a decision to support a platform and a device for the next five years. Will the Playbook still be around in five years? How about RIM? However, this device ranks very highly so far in my initial evaluation for my clients.

HP webOS on the TouchPad

Hewlett-Packard has more experience than RIM in working with large IT resellers. In discussions with some of them, while doing my research, a representative for one of these resellers told me that HP had already programs in place to facilitate the type of custom services my clients would require. Unlike with RIM, this knowhow does not have to be built from scratch. The TouchPad has not been released yet, but like the iPad, it offers an integrated environment where both the hardware and the software are controlled by one manufacturer. But unlike Apple, HP allows educational, institutional and corporate clients to side-load apps without going through the webOS App Catalog. Potentially, my clients could partner with HP, and a large IT reseller to sell pre-installed TouchPads configured with their own e-learning apps.

Another great benefit to my clients is that the technologies used to create traditional e-learning contents and infrastructures shares the same web-based architecture used by webOS devices. The learning curve for an instructional design team to make e-learning materials on webOS is significantly reduced compared to platforms like iOS and Android that rely respectively on Objective C and Java. HP webOS can also be used for multimedia presentations. However, at this time it’s unclear if connecting a Touchpad to a projector is possible (the TouchPad only has a micro-USB port, with no mentioned video-out capabilities). HP has partnered with QuickOffice for an office apps suite on the TouchPad, but it is currently unproven in the real world, and may only support document viewing at launch.

webOS itself will soon work on non mobile devices, such as HP computers and printers, and enable multiform factor communications increasing the real estate of devices accessible by an e-learning app. Thanks to features like Touch-to-Share data sharing between devices, creative instructional designer can leverage new opportunities for their apps. For direct web app mobile development, the Touchpad is also a good device, supporting both HTML5 and Adobe Flash. Because of its corporate-friendly origins, HP’s Touchpad is poised to be one of the top two solutions for educational, institutional, and corporate clients in developing their mobile e-learning and business presentation strategy on tablets.

A quick summary:

Platform and Tablet

Pros

Cons

Conclusion

iOS, iPad

Apple

Popular platform

No mid-level enterprise support, iTunes deployment is consumer-oriented

Limited support makes the iPad a device for consumers only

Android, various

Google

Competition between vendors makes prices affordable

Too many different tablets to be supported, too many changes to allow long term planning

Logistic nightmare for large scale medium and long term enterprise deployment

Windows 7, various

Microsoft

Complete compatibility with desktop programs

None of the benefits of a controlled mobile OS, some users avoid it

Lacks traditional tablet benefits

QNX, Playbook

Research in Motion

Great presentations capabilities, single manufacturer

Lacks experience in enterprise non phone /non pager devices support, need to build expertise

Great solution, but needs to prove long term support of QNX and backward compatibility

webOS, Touchpad

Hewlett-Packard

Multiple form factor, ease of development of instructional design

Unclear about how presentations connect to projectors and other devices

Recommended solution, but HP needs to control its own webOS office suite

The iPad and Android tablets have garnered the most attention and conventional wisdom assumes that iOS and Android devices should be the choice of CTOs and instructional designers looking to deploy instructional and presentation material on tablets. However, as much as it was criticized for its personal information management shortcomings, RIM's Playbook is really a suitable device for instructional design and corporate presentations. HP, however, has an opportunity to come up as the darkhorse leader in this market thanks to its strong corporate reaches and natural understanding of the needs of educational, institutional and corporate clients. Given that webOS is also an appealing mobile platform, all HP needs to do is go after this market and demonstrate to potential clients that the Touchpad is right choice for e-learning and business presentations. A worthy signal would be the quick announcement of the buyout of an office suite developer like Quick Office. webOS is the only mobile platform that lacks a proprietary office suite of its own in all the major mobile operating systems on the market.

Category:

39 Comments

Wow! Nice perspective there. I will be ready to buy a USB out to Projector accessory if HP wants my money.

Lack of video out on the touchpad is one reason I am choosing not to buy the first gen.. I am hopin the 2nd Gen will be better with video out, hopefully (wireless, please!) 1080p video out

I expect this to be an feature that HP will add over the Touchstone. I just hope that it will be included with the 1st gen and not later.

pipe dream... The power-transmitting coils of touchstone are unsuitable to transfer high-speed low-latency data required for video output. So it would have to be done using wireless connection to transmit data, and would multiple the development/hardware costs of individual Touchstone units (you would need wireless transmitting hardware in it, plus a software (rather NOT off the shelf) that would serve as a bridge between TP's wireless video transmition, and (hypothetical) Touchstone hardware video port).

A nonsense, in short - because if you need to enable wireless video out from the TP, than why bother with receiver in th Tuchstone - rather than touting wireless video directly from TP instead?

Ditto for me. I'm hoping the Opal (7") has an HDMI out.

Of course then I'd want an SD card slot so I can store all the video.

Yeah such a great article, finally all misplaced geeks on that site (who by some freak accident ended up having WebOS device rather than Android one) know WHY their WebOS devices are so brilliant, and what the heck is that "great potential", that have never materialized, and that everyone in WebOS lalaland is constantly raving about. Unfortunately, that will be about as many people, as it will ever get to know about that.

In short, it is insignificant. It didn't matter two years ago, when I first saw similar analyses popping here and there on a blogosphere, and it matters precisely NIL today - when we have clear market leaders in mobile world, and few other runner-ups. To date - all bunch of them are managed light years ahead WebOS marketing, relations and decision-making (maybe exclude RIM, they are managed poorly as well, but still better than corpse of a system, WebOS).

Let's see what HP needs to be successful with WebOS: the next wave of WebOS devices to be killer on EVERY comparison sheet (minus hardware specs, to some degree - but screen size & resolution is NOT one aspect of specs sheet that can be neglected), PLUS pricing that will undercut the competition/leaders (yes, I mean individual units sold at a loss, or without any profit at the very very least - for the whole coming generation of WebOS devices), PLUS great marketing campaign, showcasing how WebOS is better than competition from end user's point of view AND how and why it is a completely different player in a mobile market, combining all the strong points of Android & iOS and not being vulnerable to their respective shortcomings, PLUS the reasonable analysis provided above, but appearing in the mainstream professional press, not some local cheerleader website, targeted at WebOS die-hards (let's face it, that's what we are).

And all of this TOGETHER, executed in perfect "synergy" would not guarantee a success, such huge the branding gap already is. ("WebOS?? WebOS??? What is that, what is so special about it??? Oh, wait, it is based on mobile Linux, right?? You mean something like an Android, but not an Android???" - try to talk to professionals/mildly-to-high interested gadget fans/power users and that is quite often the response you will get)

And unfortunately, the next wave of devices from HP, about to be released (if we can trust anything coming out of HP's corporate mouth), killers are not. They are mediocre devices, they completely lack the "wow" factor, from hardware specification point of view. Some specs are downright disappointing. Pre 3 is everything that Pre+ should be, to wipe out the competition (or Pre 2, at the very least) - but today?? Screen size, resolution, battery capacity, it is nothing more than a solid mainstream device, but WebOS flagship, lifeline and one of the very last hopes?? C'mon... TouchPad: screen resolution, overall design, removal of gesture area(s), lack of expansion ports???? Halloooo!?). Over and over again, it is going to be "brilliant OS, unfortunately let down by a mediocre hardware, comparing to similarly (or lower) priced competition, lacking any real developer support". Looking in my crystal ball, see that sentence summarizing all the future reviews. And let's add to it: "lacking any real ownership, and right decision making, and marketing".

Speaking of marketing, here comes the pricing... And I start to think, that they are just mental at HP, because "disconnected from reality" is putting things way too mildly. How on earth they expect they will sell TouchPad, with it's lackluster specification, having already established general public opinion of "an OS without apps, hardware falling apart just from looking at it", with a premium price tag of a market leader number one (iPad/iPad2), and with a significantly HIGHER price tag that second to market leader devices with BETTER hardware specs and INFINITELY better developer support (likes of Asus Transformer, sold out before Asus can manufacture enough of them)??!. Haloooo?!! Is there anybody home??

I repeat it again: TP 16GB, in the range of $400, or bundled with unlocked world-radio Pre 3, sans contract for $500, together with intense and very good & to the point marketing campaign, showcasing WebOS brilliance from end-user point of view, and HP stands a (narrow) chance to stay in the game with WebOS.

As it looks for now, they are dead on arrive. Prices of the upper echelon of the competition, for devices that are mid-range, and ecosystem that is nothing short of exotic? This ain't going to fly, sorry...

Hmmm All I want is webOS everywhere.

That's a very well written article from a perspective that has been touched on by various techies, but never so eloquently.

I do hope HP sits up and takes notice of this - not only does this article hilight potential advantages, but, it also focuses on areas for HP to work diligently in, as well, to try to take that portion of the market for its very own!

Thanks.. excellent article!

Go HP! If you can conquer this part of the market then it will trickle down to consumers over time.
Just glad we can hope to see WebOS moving in the right direction.

This should be published in other business tech journals, if it isn't already.

Very informative.

Hi all,

I thought is was well written, fair and gave pluses & minuses to all products...Great job!

Take care all,

jay

Every employee at my company (Fortune 100) goes through continuous training. My particular job has quarterly, 9 month, annual & biannual cycles of training (not all via computer) w/new stuff coming up all the time. Yes, it is a pain in the butt, but this is a great article that really touches very important aspects of the training and its presentation. We are going through a revamp of our IT systems & distribution so I can only hope HP gets their act together--quickly. I know we are testing iPads for certain functions not to include our training. It would be great to be able to do everything on one device.

Great article.

Excellent, excellent article. One that HP would do well to heed. This is an area they could positively OWN with a few steps in the right direction.

Great article.
Someone who understands the potential of the corporate market for this product and has the clout to say it.

I have been in discussions with several large corporations regarding internal application development and built several.
iOS is never a good option for the reasons stated in this article.

Android has been the solution in every case except one where they insisting on iOS......and that app is still sitting on the digital shelf several months after development with no hint it will ever get used.

Good point. Being a person who works for an agency who requires alot of annual training. You hit the nail on the head. We have to know certain information particular for safety reasons and they provide alot of options for training.

With Citrix on WebOS it would provide a great option to receive the training while on the go. while on travel on airplanes and between locations. Then if updates are necessary they can be implemented fairly easy.

Citrix, on a plane???? Hmm, I would think you are not suppose to use cellular radios onboard :/

What an excellent read. I hope HP has what it takes to capitalize on this opportunity

On submit, I got the message that my post was flagged as spam and deleted... Huh?

Had a long message that was lost. Oh, well...

Me too...oh well...

same happened to me several times. And in the forums one said a mod had to review a post before it would get submitted. the comment and posting system is kinda strange.

Excellent article. I'm still holding out for the hope that HP's TP design team was smart enough to include HDMI out on the 1st gen Touchpad (and that they're just going to surprise us all!). I'm also hoping that HP finally stops using the iPad as a design basis and innovates a bit more on the 2nd gen if they didn't get the 1st gen TP right. In either case, I will own the first TP on launch day because I'm a webOS fan boy and I'm proud of it!

I've said this before on these comments sections but a friend of mine uses an iPad for his sales demos and he literally hates the UI (this is a guy who has used an iPhone for years) as well as the tools for his slideshows. It's pretty hilarious to watch him navigate around that tablet to show his clients a largerly dijointed experience, between spreadsheets, photos, websites, PDF files and Videos. If only he could imagine using webOS to do it all. Don't worry guys, I'll show him!

This is a big plus for schools looking to put tablets in every students hands also.

Nice read.

You had me until the fake Android complaint. "Too many companies make Android devices! There's too much competition and too many choices!" Are you serious? You'd prefer one device every two years? That is NOT an honest review.

If you have read the article, you would have gotten your quotation right and would have understood that corporations/institutions would rather not upgrade their devices as frequently as you may like to. For some companies, every 2 years is too frequent.

Nice try. I did read the full article and that's a spurious argument. Just because a new device comes out doesn't mean they HAVE to upgrade. And there's not a single tablet out that currently cannot get the latest Android version.

And if you're trying to claim it's because the old versions are no longer supported, that works for everything - notice that WebOS 1.4.x devices are no longer going to be supported, and none of the new features will work on them.

You gave me the impression that you didn't read the article only because you also gave me the impression that you don't know what it's like working with IT resellers, such as CDW & Insight, which were mentioned in the article (I'll throw in PC Mall in there as well). Or did you think that all companies will buy from and deal with HP directly?

...and you still have your quote wrong...

BTW, just because every Android tablet in the market can support the latest version of the OS (NOT) doesn't mean that it WILL. I know you're smarter than that.

@6tr6tr I agree with you. The article is being praised as an excellent read but I see way too many holes in it. On the Android comment specifically, it's interesting that there are hundreds of PC's to pick from (often there is a large number of choices from a single manufacturer) and that has not stopped IT departments from making selections for their respective companies.

Yet, somehow, Android's con is "Too many different tablets to be supported, too many changes to allow long term planning" and a "Logistic nightmare for large scale medium and long term enterprise deployment"

IT departments tend NOT to simply jump to the newest thing, but somehow the product based on an OS that is both unproven (if you consider webOS' relaunch to be a new OS) and a failure (if you consider webOS' history since '09) becomes the "Recommended solution".

Yeah, excellent article. /smh

You're confusing the CTO's job with that of the regular IT department. The CTO is not just a tech guy. He's also a business analyst that reports directly to management and understands the business implications of every decisions. What you described above is the role of the usual IT folks that are tasked with maintenance of existing systems. The CTO has to think beyond mere maintenance of systems. The CTO's job is coming up with strategies and visions for how technology integrates within an organization. CTOs, are not about replacing broken routers and monitors.

Since all tablets are new, then your argument should really be, let's just skip ALL tablets completely since we're just regular IT folks who don't trust anything new. iOS, Android, QNX and webOS have the same burden of proof, as none of them, on tablets are older than two years.

Since all Android tablets can be updated to the latest version, does that mean that the year-old Archos tablet will finally support something similar to Facetime communications, although it lacks a front camera? You said all Android tablets can be upgraded. Will the Archos that is not even approved by Google receive an update too?

You guys are so disappointed about the bad rating given to Android, that you miss the obvious advantage of the tablet for CTOs and instructional designers as argued above. Instructional designers can finally build training and presentation material that skips over all the problems we've had with PCs for years and provide, as argued above, a controlled environment where every chip, every video card, every driver is the same across the board which in turn, lowers the cost of technical support for an organization because there is only one standard to support.

Android fails to meet that requirement of a controlled environment / single standard and that's why it got such a poor rating in the article above.

According to this article, http://www.phonearena.com/news/HP-TouchPad-hands-on_id16832, the TouchPad will wirelessly connect to a Touchstone, which can then connect to a TV. So, it looks like wireless presentations will be available. Much better than HDMI out and a game changer.

As long as you carry your touchstone to all of your presentations

How is that any different than carrying around your PowerMat charger and "Camera Connection Kit" for your iPad??

(Oh yeah, one multifunctional unit versus TWO independent non-integrated devices.)

You have to carry something to connect to the projector if you're going to do a wireless presentation. Wireless presenting will be the killer app for tablets, because it's the one thing a tablet does better than any other device. If you have to connect a tablet to a projector with a cable (which I believe is the current state with the other tablets (including the IPad and the Playbook), then it's no better than presenting with a laptop. But if you can roam around the stage with your tablet and present wirelessly on a big screen, well, now we're talking. This was the one feature I was looking for in the IPad, and, I believe, the number one feature that people want the IPad to have that I believe it currently lacks. The powermat and Camera Connection Kit Do not, I believe, allow wireless presenting.

it will be difficult to "roam around the stage with your tablet", when it is docked to TouchStone.

the article had some really interesting analysis, but it felt like it fell apart and became disjointed when it came to the touchPad. Eh.

you forgot the most important negative for webos. There is an awful pdf viewer. and no editing. So why again would companies want to use a webos device?

what will companies do when the touchpad screen turns off while viewing a pdf? you have to interrupt the presentation to restart the program because window freezes lol