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Future of Campus Computing?

Mainly due to Apple's influence, tablet PCs are a hot product in the consumer market.  Therefore, it is likely that they will start showing up on campuses and in your libraries.

What sort of uses will these tablet PCs be used for?

  • Consuming Media - As we continue to digitize our content, make it available online for download and streaming, more people are going to want to access it on the go.  Tablet PCs, due to their form factor, built-in touch interface which eliminates the need for peripherals, and internet connectivity (many models are available in either WiFi or 3G/4G connection options), making accessing content while on the move very convenient.  In an academic library sense, this means activities like searching your databases, downloading your eBooks, and searching through your catalog.
  • Apps - The tablets on the market now, and the ones expected in the near future, are all being based on revised versions of smartphone operating systems.  This means that they have much of the same capabilities as smartphones and will run many of the same apps
  • EBooks - While the LCD screens used  for tablets means that they do not have the long lasting battery power of dedicated eReaders that use eInk, their color screens and greater overall utility means that tablets are an ideal device for accessing a wide variety of document formats, including eBooks.  In addition, their web connectivity and capability to play audio-visual materials means that tablets could signal a new form of academic textbook that is both more immersive and interactive.
  • Geolocation - One of the trends that has developed out of increased smartphone use in the United States has been the rise of geolocation applications, which are able to pinpoint a user's location and provide access to information and services for that area.  This is possible with tablets as well, albeit with a larger screen and more powerful computers.  These sort of applications allow libraries to reach out to their patrons in a new fashion.

Tablets are still primarily a consumer item today, and for many one that is outside the price range they feel is acceptable for a gadget.  As more devices enter the market though, prices will drop and feature lists will stabilize and they will become more mainstream.  At the same time, more academic applications will develop for tablets, which will make them more useful on campus and in your libraries.