iPad, image by Matthew DowneyBattle lines not only have been drawn but the battle has escalated to an all-out war. I’m referring to the competition over “tablets” with Apple’s iPad 2 pushing other players to release bigger, faster, full-featured products just to stay in this new game.

There is no doubt that smartphones and tablets are making a statement in the replacement market for laptops and even notebooks as the world’s thirst for smaller, faster and “funner” continues.

As with so many technologies such as flat panel displays/televisions, format changes, MP3 players, and social networking, the consumer is the driving force that dictates when the commercial applications take hold and gain wide acceptance. This trending however has occurred much faster with the integration of tablets into several key commercial markets including education.

Apple has always been a major influencer in the K-12 education market and as a partner and collaborative vendor has gained and continues to retain wide acceptance in the classrooms of schools as well as the creative curriculum departments such as multi-media, journalism, and even athletics. However, the appeal and heavy push has come from the savvy students and their 21st century, younger generation parents. This generation of students is coming to class with higher educational expectations of using their devices as an adjunct to library research, for access to instructional materials, for collaborative work, for networking in their field, and for personal productivity.

Sam Gliksman on March 15, 2011 in a blog entitled, “Can Your iPad Replace Your SmartBoard?” reviews and envisions a “lower cost” solution to an “interactive whiteboard.” (I find it so interesting how well Smart Technologies has branded their product into a technology reference. It does not matter who manufactures an interactive white board it is always referred to as a “Smartboard” much like a “tissue” is almost always called a “Kleenex”) In this example, an iPad with a simple application encourages and makes useful the enhanced interaction possible between student and instructor adding features such as “saving to file” and “document collaboration” and at the same time offers a less expensive and less-permanently installed solution for the classroom.

I was certain that tablets and smart phones would surely be poised to replace projection systems and/or large flat panel displays in the classroom. After researching this topic and speaking with a half dozen forward-thinking educators, now I am certain that this transition will not happen soon and may never happen at all. The improvements and cost slashing of these large screen products will continue to be attractive to districts and colleges for addressing larger groups and for dramatic impact. The effective inclusion of tablets in the classroom will however, push costs out of IT budgets and into the wallets of students and parents. Depending on your situation this is both a good thing and a bad thing on the financial level.

One only needs to look ahead to such breakthroughs as “augmented reality” to realize how compelling high-resolution tablets with multiple cameras and advanced recognition software will be to the total “in-class” and “virtual-class” environment. The software developments and the increase in tablet “apps” are almost exponential. Soon every student will have one. The smartphone itself may transform into a blended, hybrid tablet and it becomes easy to visualize students and instructors sharing, wirelessly, an ever-increasing amount of resources, media and data as a collaborative group no matter whether it is in a traditional campus or district environment or a global one.

So while displays will not disappear in classroom settings, the research suggests that they will work as a wonderful compliment to tablets and smartphones. This unifying of technologies, as referenced in last month’s blog, ”Collaboration is a big buzz word these days” will continue to influence end-users to seek out integrators who can offer these new technologies as an “Advanced AV” solution.