Microsoft was very prominent at last week's 33rd annual BETT (British Education, Training and Technology) exhibition in London, as much for its hardware as for the ubiquitous Windows 10 operating system. Of course, for many visitors, robots and robotics will have left the most lasting impression, especially the ones who met Pepper. For the select few invited to private demos, however, Microsoft's HoloLens trumped even that.
Giant display screens also featured heavily, apparently overtaking the whiteboards that were popular only a few years ago. There didn't seem to be as many 3D printers or Chromebooks as usual, though that doesn't mean schools aren't buying them. (Hardly any Macs, but Apple never shows up at BETT anyway.) Otherwise, there seemed to be plenty of projectors, a plethora of school, classroom and pupil management systems, and more than enough hardware and software for the internet access and filtering (censoring) buffs.
Microsoft put on a show with two large stands and lots of presentations. The main stand, Learn Live, included some Surface Studio desktop PCs and 84-inch and 55-inch Surface Hubs, which most visitors probably would not have seen before. The second stand was reserved for partners, though that included Minecraft.
Both Intel and Microsoft showed a lot of third-party hardware and software. The hardware ranged from the neat and novel Lenovo Book to the remarkably different, but not new, HP Sprout all-in-one. Most of the convertibles and Ultrabooks looked much the same, and I often had to read the fine print to see what they were. See also: Microsoft touts new Windows 10 PCs, management tools aimed at Chromebooks in education
Against that, the PC suppliers seem to have cut back from the glory days. Some had smaller stands, with RM reduced to a shadow of its former self. Toshiba has gone from a big stand to a corner of Microsoft's Partner Campus. Viglen has been absorbed into XMA. Some had no stands at all.
Nonetheless, Toshiba launched the Portégé X20W-D, a Kaby Lake-based business-oriented Ultrabook with a claimed 16-hour battery life. It has a magnesium body so it weighs only 1.1kg. The screen has a 360-degree hinge for tablet use, and it works with a stylus, too. Security features include face and fingerprint recognition using Windows Hello. However, while the keys are well spaced, they are very small, and I didn't enjoy trying to touch-type on it.
Dell launched new Latitude 11 touch-screen convertibles with 360-degree hinges and Gorilla Glass displays, spill-resistant sealed keyboards and optional active pens. This model is designed for the education market, so there's also a Chromebook version.
On the big screen front, Dell announced 55-inch and 86-inch Interactive Touch monitors, while Clevertouch offered 55-inch and 86-inch screens with Android built in. You could, of course, drive the Clevertouch screens with a computer instead. Avantis unveiled a 75-inch interactive screen with 4K pixels "from £1,999".
Vestel showed 55, 65, 75 and 84-inch interactive Windows 10 displays, and a 1080p "bedroom-friendly" 55-incher that had a built-in TV tuner as well as Window 10. Vestel says you can "use it for both scenarios and switch between PC and TV in seconds with your TV remote".
Among the novelties was Avantis's ClassVR, which is an Android-based VR system for schools. I've covered that in a separate post: UK company launches "classroom VR" with packs of 8 cheap headsets
Finally, if you're looking for a Pepper robot, Rapid Electronics is doing a package for £14,300 plus tax. This is only available to schools, colleges and universities. It had some nice poses....