Qld Education Dept buys 14k Win8 tablets



blog If you were the chief information officer of a major education department and wanted to deploy a mass tablet rollout to thousands of students, would you pick Apple’s dominant iPad platform, which owns the majority of the tablet market? Or perhaps you’d go with the fastest-growing competitor and pick Android? That’s probably what we’d do. However, according to an article published by the AustralianIT this morning (we recommend you click here for the full, paywalled article), Queensland’s Department of Education has ignored both these options and gone for a Windows 8 model from Acer:

“Nearly 14,000 Queensland secondary school students will be the recipients of the largest deployment of Windows 8 tablets in Australia and one of the biggest in the world.”

Now, from a certain perspective this deployment makes sense. After all, it’s likely that most of the IT environment of the Queensland Education Department is already Windows-based; gone are the days when Apple dominated schools around Australia. The department is likely deploying Windows 8 as a platform for precisely the same reason large corporates would be interested in it — because of platform compatibility with existing IT assets; corporate applications and so on. In the minds of IT decision-makers at the department, they may not be buying tablets here — they may actually really be buying laptops in a convertible form factor. And Apple’s iPad hasn’t historically been a great platform for creating content as students need to do — usually it’s more aimed at consuming it.

However, personally I can’t help but see this as a bit of a questionable decision. The tablet market in Australia is overwhelmingly dominated by Apple, and such education apps as there are are increasingly focusing around that platform. The iPad enjoys an even larger market share in Australia than it does overseas, and only recently, with models such as the Nexus 7 and 10, has even Android been making headway into this market. Windows 8 tablets are just extremely rare out there in the wild at the moment. Windows 8 adoption in Australia is also generally considered to have been extremely slow.

By deploying Windows 8 tablets to students, it feels a little like the Queensland Education Department is looking back to the past and the legacy of desktop Windows applications, rather than forward to the future of tablet usage, with apps specifically designed for mobile use. I’m sure many of its students will also find the dual user interface of the Windows 8 operating system a little difficult get used to, compared with the iOS interface they’re more than likely already accustomed to from home use.

Perhaps I’m wrong; only time will tell how the department’s Windows 8 deployment plays out. Microsoft has a way of winning battles in the long-run that it has lost in the short-term. In addition, I’ve liked the Windows 8 tablets that I’ve played with recently — see our review of Dell’s solid Latitude 10 tablet here. And it’s not like I haven’t been wrong before ;) However, my suspicion at the moment is that the department may come to regret not choosing a more mainstream tablet rollout for its students — as other educational institutions around Australia have done.

Image credit: Acer


  1. The problem is that schools are resorting to tablets / laptops to replace the previous way of learning (the old book and pen)..

    Recently had a discussion with a principal at a primary school where she mentioned that year 11 / 12 students were having to do remedial hand writing courses – as all exams were being done in the written format – and these kids couldn’t write properly.

    I often notice that my own handwriting skills are getting poorer , as I just don’t write much with a pen anymore (most writing i ever do each week is when i sign my name)

    I’ve always found the ipad to also be more about the “i” rather than a good collaboration tool

    Win 8 tablet – would link seamlessly with an intranet running off sharepoint , has the full office suite etc

    Teachers should still teach .. not rely on an app to to the work for them.

    • Depends on the school i would say, i know at the primary school i work weekends at here in Western Australia, we are looking at getting tablets ourselves, but primarily as an aid, nothing more.

      The tablets will not replace our current desktops, and won’t replace actual teaching done in the school.

      Our teachers have access to eBeams, Desktop computers and eventually tablets, with the idea that while the child is in free time, they can play the educational games on the tablet if they have been well behaved, or on the desktop.

  2. considering the vast majority of qld education systems would be microsoft-based (sharepoint, exchange, windows file servers, etc), i think this makes perfect sense.

    maybe try talking to actual teachers who have had to put up with ipads and say that they are a pain to integrate into current school systems…

    just because the ipad is a popular choice, doesn’t make it a smart one…

  3. Qld Gov under Captain Bligh did a mandated deal for whole of govt with microslop, yes, more wasted money, 14K Win tablets, could have saved about 4 million bucks by using Android, how many Teachers would that pay for Mr Newman?

    for a Govt hell bent of saving money, they sure as hell seem to be still very wasteful.

    • 4 Million saved is not worhwhile if the reduced functionality means the devices were a waste in the first instance. Schools often do it hard with IT, not having teams of people on standby for service desk issues and resolving interoperabiltiy problems. Keeping their systems within the microsoft family is common sense as far as I am concerned.

    • I doubt either Bligh or Newman had/have any real direct input to the process of government procurement.

      The whole things handled via tenders to QGCPO (Queensland Government Chief Procurement Office), and QGCPO then selects the best deals (and a couple of alternatives to keep some competition going).

      I wasn’t aware Qld Dept of Ed was buying tablets/laptops for school kids though, I though the feds were handling that with Rudds deal? Seems like a major waste if that’s the case…

    • Everything that works on Win7 and Win8 should work on the Win8 tablet, since it is the full blown OS just for a different processor architecture.

      • “Everything that works on Win7 and Win8 should work on the Win8 tablet, since it is the full blown OS just for a different processor architecture.”

        Well that’s just simply not true. I assume they’ve gone with Windows 8 RT which means nothing that works with Win7 and Win8 will work on these devices.

        • why would you assume that they have gone for windows RT?

          and name the application that works on windows 7, but doesn’t work on full-blown windows 8….

        • No theyve gone with Acer Iconia W701’s according to the AusIT article which has full version Win8.
          So you assumption was in fact erroneous and they will be compatible with all win7 and XP applications.

          I’m not really a fan of tablets in schools as anything other than a replacement for 50 textbooks in the school bag, im yet to see any actual enhacements of the education process other than access to information (which is great). I’m not really sure ‘educational apps’ are actually educational, and anyway these have IE10 so they can use the actual internet (you may have heard of it) rather than dinky little ‘apps’.

        • There is simply no way a school would go with RT, they would very much go with Win8 Pro, that way they have it integrated fully into their Active Directory set up along with RADIUS for user authentication on a wireless network.

          • Sorry, I was confused when you said ‘different processor architecture’ and assumed you knew what you were talking about :/

    • how many shite apps are on appstore , android marketplace?

      the app argument really annoys me, same in the smartphone space..

      • As far as Apps, the pure lack of apps is what keeps me from giving the blackberry Z10 a go. We bought one for work so I can support the users who choose to buy one and i considered making it my main phone for a while until I realised there were none of the apps I use a couple of times a week.

        “There are more apps” is a stupid argument, but if the issue is i can’t find apps that are on another platform then I would consider that valid.

        I also take issue with the argument on the basis that some developers care less about the Android platform, Zendesk being a primary where the Android app is nothing in comparison to the iOS version. One can make the apps argument but the developers not caring is also partially to blame, Zendesk for Andorid didn’t always do landscape which was an issue when you want to view it in a docked Asus Transformer pad.

  4. The thing to remember here, is that education departments (i work for one myself) get great deals for MS products.

    I know the school i work at, we pay $25.00 for the media and $144.00 for the windows license and we can install it on as many computers as we like.

    We get discounted rates on all MS products, Adobe products and McAfee. So it truly is no surprise to me that they would choose Win8 tablets above anything else, especially when all they have to do is set up a RADIUS server (which they likely already have for the WAPs their schools would have) in order to authenticate the laptops on the network.

    • “I know the school i work at, we pay $25.00 for the media and $144.00 for the windows license and we can install it on as many computers as we like.”

      Errm, I would double check that you’re complying with the license requirements by doing that. I think the volume license is for upgrades only meaning you should already have a full license for each PC you use this on. Here’s a blog I found from the UK: http://goo.gl/1U3mL

      • If you buy off the shelf pcs (dell hp lenovo etc) they all come with an OS, unless you specify otherwise.

          • Yes but that is how the volume licensing the previous poster was talking about works with most orgs.

            You buy off the shelf devices, they come with A license. Then the volume licensing piggy backs off that.

      • Yes, we are complying. The license that we buy through Data3 based on deals by the Department of Education here in Western Australia are for full original installs, not upgrades.

        And quoting a blog from the UK is silly, as that is not Western Australia.

        As said, we pay $25.00 for media, $144.00 for a non-upgrade license. But then, all our computers come from one of the 2 tender agreements by the Department of Treasure and Department of Education, the 2 companies we can buy computers from without any quotes at all are CDM and Stott & Hoare.

        These computers come pre-installed with the WA DoET SOE image.

        The only media/licenses we have to buy from Data3 are for Server OS’s, and things like newer versions of windows and office if we so wish to have newer software on our student computers (assuming you are a school allowed to choose what your student computers have on them).

  5. Good on them, smart choice.
    I’m a software developer and if some school tried to foce me to buy some crapple toy I would pull my kids out and shout at the principlal for being an ignorant tool. Android is better, but still its not really anything more than a phone OS.
    Win8 is a full blow operating system and compatible with previous versions, and it supports HTML5 so it has the actual internet rather than those dinky apps iThing users try to make do with.
    I want my kids educated to use computers and understand an OS, not how to interact with what is essentially an electronic mail order catalouge.
    Linux would of course be better, give them all RaspberryPis and a capacitive touch screen and spend the first 3 weeks of school wiring the thing together, now that would be an ICT education!

    • windows 8 – full blown for desktop maybe crap on anything else………… Os is that good they are bringing back the start button……

      My son was in the state system until last year when the state school let him down badly to the point he was been moved into the private system. the school was broke and flat out affording coffee for the teachers and they were told then to save more, next the tp will be removed from the school.

      So what can I say – bad move, gives a lot of kids more reason to waste time given that these units need to be useable to start with – by the time they are loaded down with the SOE crap they will want to put onto them they will be next to useless. looks like another expensive experiments by the qld govt it will be brushed away when it fails.

  6. I would not recommend I devices in ANY managed environment.

    It take 20-30 minutes of Customer time to deploy an iphone, and most of that is taken up with the appleID and then the suite we use to lock the system down.

    On top of that, we have constant issues with IOS and Activesync. Essentially Apple don’t appear to spend much time on it. Of course the users who get affected by this the most are the ones who have a lot of calendar meetings etc, and delegates to deal with them, so you know, CEO’s Presidents, CFO’s etc etc etc

    I cannot understand Apple’s mentality there. They have a massive opportunity to take over a huge segment of the corporate market, and they are not doing themselves any favours at the moment.

    • >They have a massive opportunity to take over a huge segment of the corporate market, and they are not doing themselves any favours at the moment.

      Apple don’t need to do s**t, they already have a massive share of the corporate market and companies are buying i-devices regardless of the problems of reliability and management. I’m contracting to a multinational at the moment who offered staff a choice of corporate owned phone – Samusung SGS3, iPhone 5 or Blackberry. Over 80% went iPhone, the rest Samsung apart from a handful of BlackBerry diehards.

      • Ask sony how doing nothing affected their market share.
        This is the one space where likes of Nokia and Samsung can knock apple off.

      • Yes, but that is because business tends to lag behind the retail market. Apple is no longer the market leader, and their numbers are starting to drop off. On top of that more organisations have like mine, started moving towards the smart phones, and are finding that the total cost of management for these devices is much higher than expected. They simply don’t play well in the environment.

        I’m not saying that Apple are going to drop off quickly, but they have a chance NOW to take over the Business market as much as BB did.

        IF they fix their ActiveSync issues. IF they provide a more streamlined method of deployment. IF they provide corporate Appleid accounts which allow a business to keep and redeploy applications etc.

        Otherwise they will start losing the market to those companies that are starting to do these things. BB might even have a chance of getting back in if they can play it right.

  7. However, personally I can’t help but see this as a bit of a questionable decision. The tablet market in Australia is overwhelmingly dominated by Apple, and such education apps as there are are increasingly focusing around that platform.

    Without knowing the first thing about the use case for these tablets, it’s impossible to judge whether or not it was a good decision. If the goal was to purchase the most popular device with the most number of apps, then yes the iPad is the best choice – but why assume that was the goal? Maybe it needed to support one or more legacy Win32 apps. Maybe it needed to support authentication on a Windows domain. Maybe they wanted to develop in-house apps for it using their own developers, almost all of whom are .NET devs (or were when I worked there a couple of years back). There are plenty of scenarios where an iPad might not be the best choice.

    Bottom line, the outcome should be judged against the stated goals, not your assumptions.

  8. You’d think Education Queensland would learn after the Acer poor build quality

    They just wasted alot money in labor cost 50-100 contractors repairing 2 year old laptops because manufactures defect. Which they’re now replacing with new tablets?

  9. Android tablets are about $100 each and falling fast. I think it’s a guaranteed winner unless Google lose badly in court to Oracle or maybe something insane happens.

    Without a keyboard, a tablet is basically a book reader and a web browser. It’s good for kids to be reading of course, but to do work you need a keyboard.

    FWIW, I’m a pretty hot typist, but I haven’t signed my name (with a pen) the same way twice in the past 20 years. Banks used to hate me until they also gave up on paperwork, now we get along much better. If they would stop using DOB as a security token we would be best friends. Paper and pen is best for doodling during meetings, and for spattering with arrows as you explain something. Kids need doodling skills, so keep the classes as boring as possible.

  10. Heaven forbid any State Education Department introduces Android. What a malware laden POS that Google Play Store is. At least with Windows 8 the admins can run some enterprise grade IT management over those devices. Intune anyone?

  11. sad, and a waste…when will education policy makers realise kids don’t need to make pretty power-point decks, they need to know how to code.

  12. Im an engineeering student with all three of those devices (Ipad, 10.1 note and that acer tablet). When its time to do real work I will have at minimum a browser, word, excel all running at the same time, swapping at need on the windows 8 tablet. The popularity of the other two hardly compensates for the limitaions of not beong able to run full office.

  13. I sit on the edge of the education scene: trained as a teacher (which my wife is also), but found business more fun. For NSW state high schools, I’ve seen a student’s laptop filled with gigs of hacking tools (I told him he might want to work for the DSD), seen the abuse and graffiti these laptops are subjected to, as well as been in front of the class while students make mischief while they wait an enternity to log in (or open IE, or load one webpage). Battery life was abysmal and interrupted learning activities.

    I was amazed that 14k tablets running win8 would be purchased by a state government. Sure, in NSW state high schools laptops run windows, but buying win8 tablets seems quite risky. In this form factor, MS is very minor player and this seems like a bit bet from the QLD state government. A variety of independent schools have done the hard work of figuring out how to safely use iPads as a support for learning. And it is reasonably common for teachers in some schools to go the BYOD (bring your own device) route and not wait for funding to appear, hence students use whatever is in their bag or pocket.

  14. I manage aspects of IT for a QLD Govt Education department, although not secondary schools. Whilst I could talk to the issues of deploying iPads and Androids at scale in an environment where device management is required, I would only be repeating the concerns of previous commenters.

    What I’d like to add is that these devices should not be compared to iPads or Androids but to the computer rooms that they will surely replace. In my experience, a Windows 8 tablet matches the use cases for a Windows Desktop more closely than it does an iPad, save for portability.

    The iPad does have its place as there are genuinely useful apps on it: Articulate Player, iMovie and iAuditor to name some that are particularly good and not available elsewhere. However, the cost of managing the devices (plus some infuriating limitations when you do put them under management) and the fact that government departments can often get very good discounts on Windows devices would probably result in a lower TCO.

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