ISTE take-home message #1: It's all about the iPads

Raise your hand if you're considering an iPad deployment for 1:1 computing. The folks at ISTE seem to think you are.

Last week I was running my company's first ever educational trade show booth at the International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) 2011 conference in Philadelphia. I had a few things to say about the big business of ed tech, but, at the end of the day, I had a chance to talk to a lot of people (teachers, vendors, thought leaders, and administrators alike) and walked away with some overarching themes, ideas, and impressions on the state of the art in educational technology.

Despite being tethered to my booth for most of the conference, I had no shortage of people from across K12 and higher ed to talk to. I also managed to sneak away and see some great products (and some products that, quite frankly had me scratching my head about why they were there). Over the next few days, I'll be writing up some of these products, as well as my key take-home messages.  For today, though, I need to start with the number 1, most important message. This message is especially important for those of us who develop ed tech products but is a big heads up for anyone who thought the iPad just might be a fad.

Guess what? It's not.

Will Android ultimately dominate this space? Probably. Low-cost Android tablets continue to make their way into the market and, while cheap Chinese tablets were originally of very low quality, that's changing quickly. New tablets from Viewsonic, for example, range from very usable, inexpensive mobile Internet devices all the way to dual boot Android/Windows PCs that just happen to live in a tablet form factor.

That being said, though, you couldn't sneeze at ISTE without someone looking up from their iPad to say "Gazuntite!" The sleek tablets were everywhere. Android tablets could only be found in the Dell and Viewsonic booths. While recent over the air updates to Android Honeycomb have rendered it quite stable and speedy-quick on the latest hardware and Android 2.2+ works quite well on smaller tablets, Apple has somehow convinced every teacher and administrator in North America and western Europe that only the iPad is capable of transforming education.

While no tablet will transform anything without the right teaching techniques and curriculum behind it, the iPad is poised to become the next showcase 1:1 platform in schools. It isn't without its issues in educational enterprise deployments, but the abundance of iPad charging carts, iPad Apps, iPad sessions, and even iPad cases suggests that most people are willing to ignore its shortcomings and leap into iPad-land.

To be completely honest, my own Motorola Xoom and Dell Streak stayed with my kids during the day as they did Philadelphia tourist things. The tablet in use at my booth? An iPad 2, justified by the iLeads App that let me track potential customers in real time based on their badge numbers. I'll talk more about my internal iPad vs. Xoom vs. Streak conflict later.

For now, suffice to say that in Ed Tech, it's all about the iPad.