In the mid-1960s, it was not uncommon for Captain Kirk’s banter with the crew
of the Starship Enterprise to be interrupted by a request to give his
approval signature on a tablet. That’s about as far as the show’s
writers took the idea but, as any visiting UPS delivery driver can
show you, it proved prescient.
The greater promise of tablets as a replacement to mobile computers — and
even as a new kind of mobile information and communications device — is
starting to be realized in education and business.
The increasing availability of Wi-Fi, which makes tablets more practical for
communications such as e-mail, instant messaging and Web surfing, was a big help. More flexible designs gave another boost to adoption.
“You have slate tablets that are good for vertical markets like
health care and manufacturing, but they have limited appeal,” Tim Bajarin, president
of Creative Strategies, told internetnews.com. “But where we’re
really seeing an uptick in interest is in the new generation of convertible
tablets that also perform as an ultralight notebook.
“They really have the potential to go mainstream, particularly if the
cost is about the same as a notebook, and that seems to be where it’s headed,” Bajarin continued. “I predict that within three years, all the ultra-light notebooks will have tablet
functionality as well.”
Bajarin’s favorite convertible is the Lenovo ThinkPad X41
Tablet PC. The unit’s unique swivel hinge allows the screen to rotate
180 degrees. Users can take handwritten notes directly on the 12.1-inch screen with Lenovo’s Tablet Digitizer Pen.
“There’s been a perfect storm of all the technology coming together,”
Michael Schmedlen, eastern regional manager for education at Lenovo, told
internetnews.com. He credits manufacturing and materials advances
that enable companies like his to keep the unit’s weight relatively light at under five pounds, as well as advances in Wi-Fi, OCR
“We weren’t the first to market, but I think our timing has been spot-on,” said Schmedlen.
One of the early success stories for Lenovo has been in education. The
company recently announced a deployment of X41s to close to a hundred
students plus faculty at St. Mary’s School, an independent women’s college preparatory school in Raleigh, N.C.
Tablet PCs enable the school’s faculty to approach traditional classroom
exercises with an innovative twist. For example, instead of sketching a
costume design for dance class using a pen and paper, students can use
graphical software and the tablet’s stylus to quickly create, review and
modify images, changing scene and costume colors with the click of a
Music teachers can e-mail handwritten lessons in musical notation to
student tablets for tailored homework assignments. In biology class, a
student’s well-executed molecular diagram can be instantly distributed
“I am impressed with the increased level of interaction and enthusiasm
this technology has created,” said Theo Wilkes Coonrod, head of Saint Mary’s
School, in a statement. “Classroom instruction and student learning have been
revolutionized with this one cool machine.”
St. Mary’s is also using additional classroom management software to
enhance the utility of the X41s. For example, lectures notes, as well as the
complete classroom lectures and discussions, can be recorded to the tablet for
later review. On every X41 tablet, Lenovo includes 3,400 writings on Western
civilization, including the complete works of Shakespeare, every presidential
inaugural address and numerous musical scores.
As with any mobile device, theft and damage are an issue. Lenovo offers
an additional service plan to repair any unit that incurs accidental damage.
As for theft, “It’s always a concern,” said Schmedlen, “but we’ve found at the
schools where everyone has one, there’s almost no theft.”