Over the past few days, I have been working with a school network IT administrator to learn a bit more about the Windows Server platform and the most efficient ways to deploy it network wide. We got onto the topic of the use of iPad’s in the classroom and we both had some similar ideas.
The iPad is a device that is designed and marketed more towards the individual user, instead of a multi-user environments. This is a problem in these kind of environments because it is difficult to localize a user to a specific device dynamically and monitor their usage (e.g. websites they visit) and synchronize their data between devices (e.g. in app content such as documents).
This is where I believe Windows 8 based tablets could take the market. They should just slot into most schools existing networks by just connecting to the domain that is already configured. I can’t see Apple being able to do anything like this without bringing out a large update for iOS to support logins on devices.
The tool, Apple Configurator, was released recently and allows you to connect iOS devices to it and control them centrally. The profiles that you can create are similar to domain policies on Windows, where you can set the restrictions that each group has (e.g. limiting access to install new applications).
The tool offers you an ability to assign certain devices to users. While this may work (I haven’t tried it out yet), I think that Apple had the idea that each user would have their own device and I’m sure that the majority of schools IT budgets won’t stretch far enough for this. Unless Apple added some sort of feature to make it easy to switch which user is assigned to each device, it seems quite a pain for the administrator to have to open up Apple Configurator utility every time the devices change hands (and in a school environment, this can be many times a day).
Apple Configurator seems like a first step to making iPad’s (and other iOS devices) easier to deploy in a school environment but without some form of domain login, I can see a chance of Windows 8 devices becoming more popular.