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My blog last week, “University Deploying Thousands of Windows 8 Tablets Is Smart Tactics, Flawed Strategy,” generated quite a bit of reader reaction.

I’m actually quite excited about what Windows 8 will deliver. But I felt that Seton Hall’s plan to standardize completely on Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks (initially all from Samsung) and effectively ban Apple and Android devices from classroom use was overly restrictive, out of touch with student preferences, and could cost the school more money in the short and long run.

One of those who responded was the architect of the Windows 8 plan, Seton Hall CIO Stephen G. Landry. His e-mail was both surprising – did you know Seton Hall has been giving out free laptops to students since 1997? – and predictable – the decision to restrict to only Windows 8 came down to a real-world analysis of the financial cost-benefits.

Credit: Seton Hall University

Landry actually acknowledges that Seton Hall is swimming against the tide. Most schools and companies will choose to support BYOD for a diversity of platforms, he writes, but going Windows 8 was “the best solution currently available” for the school.

While the e-mail didn’t make me change my mind, I thought it was well-written and illuminating. The fair thing to do seemed to be to run it in its entirety below, and ask you for your thoughts. Text is bolded by me for emphasis.

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Thank you again for responding to my tweet on your ZDNet article.  I found your comments both interesting and informative.  I certainly agree with you that our program’s use of Windows 8 Tablets is smart tactics.  I also agree with you that in the long term most successful IT organizations will implement strategies to support a variety of devices that users bring to work or school.  However, some background about Seton Hall might give even more weight to your assessment that SHUmobile was the best solution for us at this time, and not necessarily a flawed strategy.

For the past fifteen years Seton Hall has been a ubiquitous computing campus, that is, we provide a standard laptop to undergraduate students and their faculty as part of their tuition and fees.  One of the core principles of this program is that in today’s world access to appropriate technology is important for academic success.  Our president, Dr. Gabriel Esteban, put this well in his announcement of this program to the University community when he said, “By putting the most advanced mobile computing system in the hands of all of our students, regardless of prior experience or socio-economic background, we are leveling the playing field and creating opportunities for tomorrow’s servant leaders.”

In designing our ubiquitous computing program, we’ve found that standardization enables us to provide excellent computers to our students at the lowest overall cost. This standardization also allows us to provide a very high level of service and support.  This high level of support has been especially important to our faculty who want to incorporate technology-based activities, courseware and e-texts into the classroom. Until technology evolves that will allow us to provide the same level of support in a diverse environment, or our community is willing to accept greater responsibility for their own technical support, our objective is to provide the best technology package for the price we’re able to pay.

The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC with Windows 8 did this, while solving several instructional technology issues.   In particular, it allowed us to consolidate students’ laptop and tablet experience.  This was less expensive for us than issuing both a laptop and a tablet, or issuing a convertible laptop/tablet, as we have done with science and honors students in the past.  Once we made the decision to join Microsoft’s First Wave Program and adopt Windows 8, Nokia and AT&T also worked with us to implement and distribute a Freshmen Experience app to support greater student engagement with their classmates, suitemates, instructors, mentors and peer advisors, and to help them navigate the campus (both physically and by providing online services from the Financial Aid, Bursar and Registrar’s offices).

Here are some Web pages that provide some additional background on our program:

IT News Blog: http://blogs.shu.edu/doit/2012/08/seton-hall-university-launches-shumobile-the-evolution-of-the-mobile-computing-program/

SHU Mobile Computing Program page: http://www.shu.edu/offices/technology/about-mobile-computing.cfm

SHUmobile Web page: www7.shu.edu/technology/windows8.cfm

I’d be happy to provide you additional details about our program, our decision to adopt Windows 8, and why we believe this is the best solution currently available that meets the University’s instructional and technology requirements.  Please give me a call (my office and cell phone numbers are below) or drop me an email at your convenience.  And thanks again for reaching back to me for my point of view regarding this program.

Best regards,

Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.

Chief Information Officer

Seton Hall University

Twitter: @landryst

Facebook: www.facebook.com/landryst

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3 Comments

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  1. Tom Van Doorslaer

    I think that the Windows 8 tablets (and future phones) do hold a lot of potential.

    A lot of companies introduce BYOD or are thinking about it. For each company that manages to do so, there are several others who failed to do so, or simply don’t know how to start.

    Not everyone is willing to turn their current infrastructure upside down and expose their intranet to the mobile devices. In such cases, Microsoft might be the best solution.

    It offers high integration with all the other microsoft based products and services, and it doesn’t require any additional administration infrastructure.

    In the end, it may end up costing more than BYOD (buying all those W8 tablets…), but I think it’s just a lot less scary to support something you’ve been using for many years, than introducing BYOD, not knowing what may be on the other end.

    Mind you, I’m still very much a fan of BYOD, but I can see how the MS Package is a viable alternative.

    I already claimed a year ago, that MS has a unique position in terms of products, services, software and integration. A lot of companies who fear BYOD may go down this road. (time to buy some MS Stock… 😉 )

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    1. Eric Lai Post author

      Hi Tom – I agree that Win 8 has a ton of potential. And, like you, I am a fan of BYOD, if properly managed with the right processes and MDM software. But I just think enterprises that think they will be able to standardize completely on one platform, i.e. Windows, are fooling themselves. That ship has sailed. Most companies are already supporting Macs and Linux in addition to Windows, and iPhones and Android phones on the phone side. Why would they think they could limit tablets to a single platform? There’s few cost/mgmt scale advantages unless you are really, truly, a one platform shop, i.e. Windows PCs, Windows phones (not even RIM), and Windows tablets. And nobody is that anymore in this day and age, I think…

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  2. Michael Bestvina

    Interesting one. When I first read the title of this article (“Best Solution Currently Available”) I was thinking “Wow, what’s so great about the Win 8 tablet?!? Will this be the iPad killer for the Enterprise??” Then I realized this decision came down to this comment: “our objective is to provide the best technology package for the price we’re able to pay.”

    A couple of thoughts come to mind when I hear this:

    • Windows is probably giving them a heck of a deal here. Probably even free. They need the tablet user base badly.
    • No student is rushing to get their hands on an Win8 tablet. Remember, this is an iPad market, not a tablet market.

    Furthermore, reading the comments about consolidation of PC and tablet, just reminds me of how illogical and crazy the so-called “tablet” market is. The first article you mention talks about the three reasons the Win8 tablet is so great. But these are all mainly features of why having a Win8 tablet is better than having a PC for someone on the go.

    I wouldn’t doubt for a school like SHU, they’ll see plenty of students running around with a smartphone, MacBook, Win8 Tablet, and an iPad. That’s not very “mobile”.

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