In the next 3 years or so, I would not be surprised if Microsoft were to become the dominant player in the education technology field.
Okay, so this post is going to be full of silly predictions like that.
I have sometimes argued that one thing we need for the future would be to have the same operating system, or at least the same User Interface, on our mobile devices as we have on our desktops. You will notice that I say mobile devices and desktops, that’s because I believe that in the coming years, laptops and netbooks will be hit by the rise of tablet and smartphone devices to the point where we shall have just desktops and mobile devices …. see I warned you about silly predictions!
Upto now, mobile devices have generally had a quite different operating system to desktops and other computing devices. So we see that Apple’s MacOS is quite different from their system on iPhones and iPads, similarly Samsung’s use of Android has been different from its use of Windows on its Netbooks. Some devices, such as those from Nokia or RIM have had their own operating system which has no equivalent in computers. True, we have seen a few laptops, such as some from Acer, which have had Android as a second operating system but this has generally proved unsuccessful.
So how does Microsoft fit into all this? To start, we know that Microsoft have the dominant role in Desktop operating systems with Windows. They also had a Windows mobile operating system, which was developed upto version 6.5 but this was quite a clunky system and perhaps the less said about it, the better! However, Microsoft have a new mobile operating system in the pipeline which looks much more promising. I’m not talking about Windows Phone 7, or 7.5 (mango), interesting though that looks, I’m refering to Windows 8 and its Metro UI
which I have seen on both desktop and mobile devices. Windows Metro UI presents the user with the same UI on all their devices, which would be a great boon and could be particularly helpful in bringing on board any technophobic (sorry, I hate that term but you know what I mean) teachers… but could that be another silly prediction?
I say the UI would be the same rather than saying the operating system would be the same. That’s because I believe the UI would be coupled to a cloud operating system. This would have numerous advantages; it would mean that the memory of the mobile device could be devoted more to working the application being used rather than splitting it between program and operating system, it could also mean that the mobile device need only store the application to be used and not all other applications as well. This takes cloud computing to its next stage and would move us on from the simple use of the Cloud for storage and file sharing. There are, of course many other advantages of cloud computing which I shan’t go into here.
I daresay other companies, e.g. Apple, Google, are developing newer operating systems for both mobile and desktop devices, so Microsoft may not be alone in this. At the moment, though, it would seem Microsoft has a lead which it could convert to its advantage if it can release Windows 8 sooner rather than later.
I am aware that it is often argued that the use of education technology should not be led by developments in the technology but by the needs of learning. I am also aware that in the past it has been developments in technology which have spurred developments in educational practice. I have always maintained that the two, technology and pedagogy, need to work together. By having the same UI on our mobile and fixed computing devices, I feel we can help make the two work more harmoniously … another silly prediction perhaps? My feeling is that many teachers are put off technology because they have to ‘learn’ how to operate that technology and different devices and programs have, traditionally, required different skills and operating techniques. If we have the same UI then teachers, and other users, need only learn one way of operating and, once they have learned what they need then they can focus more upon the uses and application of the technology. It could also help breakdown the divide or barrier between teachers and pupils where the teacher feels, or knows, the pupils know more about how to use a computer than they do.
So could this all indicate a stealthy strategy by Microsoft or just a coincidental happenstance? Whichever way I feel it is the right approach and other manufacturers would do well to take note.