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Apple, Android or Windows? What’s best in ELT?

TabletsHas the time arrived for you to take a step into mobile learning to see what it offers you and your students? Matt Steele takes a look.

Whether you want to embark on creating, running, or teaching a wholly tablet based course, with no hard copy books in the classroom or at home, or you are simply interested in experimenting with a single tablet device in the classroom as a teaching aid, it will pay you to take a look at the technologies available.

New tablets are coming onto the market on an almost daily basis, and any recommendation for a particular device for a particular purpose can very soon become out of date.

However the Operating System (OS) battle has now largely been decided. Apple’s iOS (its tablet and phone OS) and Google’s Android OS enjoy by far the largest share of the market between them, with Microsoft, Blackberry and the rest taking the remainder.

So, while there is an enormous range of tablets to choose from, the choice of OS is limited to an absolute maximum of three (or four, depending on whether you consider Windows 8 and Windows RT as a single candidate). But which one to go with?

According to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, and reported on bgr.com, while growth of tablet shipments slowed overall in the second quarter of 2013, Android and iOS based tablet market share has effectively flipped compared to their positions only a year ago, with Apple’s iPad experiencing a 14% drop in sales to 17 million units, and Android enjoying a huge surge in sales from 10.7 million to 28.2 million, an increase of around 163%.

This reflects Samsung’s (whose tablets use Android) position as second only to Apple in tablet hardware sales. Amazon (whose Kindle Fire uses Amazon’s own version of Android), Lenovo and Acer make up the rest of that list, along with the myriad other tablet makers, who also use Android.

In the same way that the popularity of the Windows PC OS in the nineties caused Intel to become the largest chip manufacturer in the world, so Samsung and Amazon’s Kindle Fire have reaped the benefit of the success of Android.

The choice of OS, however, is bound up with a number of other issues – how do the respective app stores rate? To what extent can you make use of your school’s existing technologies (email, interoperability with a school LAN etc)? What other software is available to help you with the management of classroom based tablet devices?

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