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Schools waiting for Windows 8 before buying tablets

Windows 8

By Barry Collins

Posted on 31 May 2012 at 09:37

Many schools are postponing a decision on whether to purchase tablets for their pupils until the release of Windows 8, according to the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA).

A BESA survey of 500 British schools found that 6% of all "pupil-facing computers" will be non-Windows tablets by the end of this year, a figure that is expected to climb to 22% by the end of 2015.

One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops

However, BESA warned that many schools are still taking a cautious approach to tablets, with 85% of schools worried about the management and security of such devices, and 71% concerned about the installation and purchase of apps.

In particular, schools are concerned that the investment they've already made in Windows software is lost when buying Android tablets or iPads. "One of the reasons schools are holding back is Windows 8 will offer a unified platform on slates and desktops," BESA director Caroline Wright told PC Pro.

BESA also found that the majority of primary schools are waiting for the Government to back the adoption of tablets, even though schools were granted the autonomy to make their own ICT buying decisions in 2010, following the dismantling of BECTA.

Education secretary Michael Gove has espoused the educational benefits of tablets, telling the 2011 Schools Network Annual Conference that "as we move to a world where we expect every child will have a tablet, the nature and range and type of content that can be delivered will be all the greater".

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User comments

The Governor

As a school governor in a primary school helping with ICT, the main issue recognised is definitely about software compatibility. The need to source software for multiple platforms makes any change much more expensive...

By dukeofearl61 on 31 May 2012


Since Windows Desktop software won't run on ARM tablets they might still be disappointed. And since Windows 8 wont be out until October they might have a long wait for Windows tablets.

By confucious on 31 May 2012

Please do NOT wait for Windows 8 tablets, let education innovate not stagnate.

Whether you choose Android, Linux, Microsoft or Apple, you are still essentially tied to that provider when you purchase a tablet. Let’s hope that schools forget the ideals of old, when pupils were subjected to using computers that barely registered a sale outside of education (BBC, Acorn). Microsoft may want to change the future, but as far as the tablet is concerned, they have missed the boat. Windows 8 won’t change the playing field in the real world; let’s hope it doesn’t stifle the classroom again.

My daughter is 6 years old with Downs Syndrome. She has taken to all things tablet like the proverbial “Duck to Water”. From an iPod touch to a Leapfrog, iPad and Galaxy tab, if it has a touch screen, she just gets on with it.

With a Tablet she is the most creative and contended child I have ever known, and she knows how to stream her work to Apple TV for us all to see. She may only have the vocalisation of the average 3 year old, but she positively beams as she streams!

We have a ‘homework’ process where my twin 7 year olds and my 6 year old sit to the table and write pen to paper, and illustrate things first.

The pen and paper approach is helping them form the words, punctuate and spell (unlike me!) Then they can transcribe those things to the Tablet and a slideshow can be created, they love it. The Tablet version is simply the reward for the hard work.

This process has actually helped my 6 year old, she is now eager to write and draw, knowing she can tablet doodle later.

Should my less able 6 year old have to wait to use a Windows 8 tablet in school when she already uses the defacto tablet platform, the iPad at home?


By markcr6 on 31 May 2012


This is what uor taxes are paying for? so some scabby kids can all have spanking new tablets??? Next time i hear anyone saying schools are underfunded i am going to punch them in the face!

By lumpaywk on 31 May 2012


Yes, your child should have to wait while schools carefully decide how to spend their ever tightening budgets on the best products for the money - those that will teach transferrable skills on platforms that are most likely to be useful in their future lives/careers. And, sorry to say, that’s probably not going to be the iPad. Sure, it might not be Windows 8 either, but it’s certainly worth waiting a few months to see if the promised convergence materialises.

The iPad itself is very well priced, virtually a loss leader to entice the buyer into a locked, Apple-sanctioned, ecosystem. However, walled-garden issues aside, when you look at the unification of the platforms (ie: when the child sits down at a keyboard to do some productive work), you’re looking at hardware that simply isn’t competitive in price, performance, or prevalence.

If it’s just digital textbooks and computerised messing around that you’re after, there are very cheap third party Android tablets that perform well nowadays, and these could be purchased alongside Raspberry Pi machines to reinvigorate the creativity and curiosity that’s so lacking in this “iPod/Just works” generation of children. And you could buy both of those for less than the price of the old model iPad.

By TheHonestTruth on 31 May 2012


Schools ARE underfunded. Having worked in the IT dept in a school for a few years the budgets year after year are getting smaller. The school at which I used to work for had to make redundancies of 10+ staff two years in a row to cope with the declining budgets.

It is a very good idea for schools to wait for W8 tablets as there are many software compatibility issues to be looked at. After once having a long chat with a teacher at a supported primary school who just went out and bought some iPad's for kids to use, they were quite surprised that they couldn't load up xyz website as flash is not supported on iOS; the iPad's are still in use but not in the way the school originally bought them for.

If I was still working in education then I would be looking at what x86 Win8 tablet platforms would be coming out; for security, manageability and compatibility purposes. From an IT support view there would be nothing like chucking 50+ tablets in the classrooms that is not compatible with an odd-but-essential bit of software, or for a student to reconfigure it to bypass security protocols.

It wouldn’t matter to me so much at how long the battery can last for as lessons last for roughly an hour, so the tablets could be put on charge during break time/lunch hour.

By PaulGSeddon on 31 May 2012

Android and iPads tablets are toys

Wise decision of these schools. I just bought a Android-based unit to connect to the TV - ARM Cortex etc, similar to a tablet configuration. Its was slow, didnt support HTML5, did support Flash 10, but the page I usually use have now changed to Flash 11, so cant watch any thing else than YouTube. No tablet except Windows tablets support full browsing and full speed. Android tablet and iPads are toys - of cause you should be able to run the same on your notebook/PC as on your tablet.

By gaudi on 31 May 2012

Schools are underfunded

I'm also the governor of a small primary school, with responsibilities for ICT. We currently have a ratio of one computer to more than three children, and I'd like to improve that, but this government has drastically cut back money so even maintaining our current ratio is a challenge.
As to waiting for Windows 8 before buying tablets - it's not even a factor for us. Windows 8 tablets will bring a new marketplace for software, that is unlikely to be very busy initially, at least from an education perspective. So far as I can see, it's pretty much an entirely new platform with unproven hardware - we definitely won't be rushing to that.
If we were to buy any tablets then the moment they would be iPads: they seem to have the best ongoing support in terms of OS upgrades so will be useful for longer; they have a maturing set of management tools; they have cameras built in that are actually worth using (part of the justification for them would be they could also replace the stills and video cameras employed in classrooms); they have the greatest range of educational software. To the detractors who point out you can buy Android for less: take a look at what you get for your money. Screens that can't be seen easily with batteries that won't last a school day with unresponsive touch screens and poor cameras in a case that will quickly fall apart are a waste of money. The decent Android alternatives are the same cost as an iPad.
But we won't be buying iPads because they don't support Flash 11; Google Docs doesn't currently work properly on them; and I'd hate to buy in to them only to find Apple do release a cheaper 7" tablet that might be more appropriate.
Instead we are looking at plain old Windows laptops, or maybe an outside chance of ChromeBooks. Windows 8 laptops might be of interest in a year or two time if they do start adding touch screens, but we can't wait for that because we need equipment now.
As a final and slightly related point to Windows and the perception of manageability, from the perspective of a small school, Windows offers the weakest solution. Running a full on server with Active Directory and expecting a teacher to keep up to speed with the vagaries of Group Policies and application deployment is unrealistic, and employing people to do it for you is a major drain on budgets - switching to tablets or ChromeBooks could potentially simplify the management and administration of IT in schools and save significant money. However, it will be interesting to see whether this comes about since the people recommending IT solutions in schools are generally the geeks, and turkeys don't vote for Christmas...

By mrtrilby on 31 May 2012


For your last bit about managing the IT side, do you have a local secondary school that you can go to help with? If not then I know a very good website packed full of geeks working in education that could point you in the right direction. Although moving to ChromeBooks and tablets instead of desktops sound appealing there are a lot of different variables that come into play that need to be looked at before that can happen.

By PaulGSeddon on 31 May 2012

Another small point

Another small point to make. Desktops have a life expectancy of 4-5 years, and a bit of research can get you 3+ years of a good warranty. Laptops have a life expectancy of 3 years, 4 would be pushing it, and again with a possibility of a 3+ year warrenty. Tablets, and possibly ChromeBooks, will last for roughly 2 years before needing to be replaced.

Decent desktops can be bought for £300-£400, with monitor. Laptops go for £300-£500. The iPad starts at roughly £400.

By PaulGSeddon on 31 May 2012


With Microsoft charging licensing fees per installation, will they really let Tablet users have their software for free? Of course not. So the argument that investing in any other tablet ecosystem than Windows is more "expensive" is specious.

By SwissMac on 1 Jun 2012

Re. 'Another small point'

"Tablets... will last for roughly two years before needing to be replaced."

Said with such certainty. A PC that's done 3 or 4 years service in a school will be fit for the scrap heap - you'll probably have to pay someone to take them away. A 2 year old iPad on the other hand - like the iPad 1 I'm writing this on - will still fetch half its purchase price, should you feel the need to upgrade; not sure I could say the same about 'alternative' tablets...

By petermillard1 on 1 Jun 2012

The Unified platform is stopping them now...

So windows 8 is set to deliver the ultimate feature. I buy my app for my multicore desktop pc. I turn on my win8 tab and I can freely download it, install it and run it?
So the reverse is true, I buy my App on my tab, let's say it's an expensive app, costs £6.99 but it does what I need, and because it is a unified platform, I simply switch on my desktop, go to the windows purchase place, see it listed that I have bought it and download it for my pc?

Schools, please wait for Windows 8. your software costs will be almost free.

By markcr6 on 1 Jun 2012

Huge license discounts for education

Microsoft gives huge license discounts to the education sector, which means that the cost of Windows 8 should be much cheaper than what most people will pay.

Microsoft apps such as Office have a huge educational discount too!

These discounts, coupled with the fact that x86 tablets can run legacy Windows apps means that Windows 8 is definitely worth waiting for.

Add to the fact that you only pay for a Windows 8 Metro app once (which you can then download on any other Windows 8 device without paying again), then Windows 8 suddenly starts to make a lot of sense for schools.

By adamski88 on 1 Jun 2012

Huge license discounts for education

Microsoft gives huge license discounts to the education sector, which means that the cost of Windows 8 should be much cheaper than what most people will pay.

Microsoft apps such as Office have a huge educational discount too!

These discounts, coupled with the fact that x86 tablets can run legacy Windows apps means that Windows 8 is definitely worth waiting for.

Add to the fact that you only pay for a Windows 8 Metro app once (which you can then download on any other Windows 8 device without paying again), then Windows 8 suddenly starts to make a lot of sense for schools.

By adamski88 on 1 Jun 2012

Huge license discounts for education

Microsoft gives huge license discounts to the education sector, which means that the cost of Windows 8 should be much cheaper than what most people will pay.

Microsoft apps such as Office have a huge educational discount too!

These discounts, coupled with the fact that x86 tablets can run legacy Windows apps means that Windows 8 is definitely worth waiting for.

Add to the fact that you only pay for a Windows 8 Metro app once (which you can then download on any other Windows 8 device without paying again), then Windows 8 suddenly starts to make a lot of sense for schools.

By adamski88 on 1 Jun 2012

Re. 'Another small point'

We had desktops that were still going strong that were 6-7 years old, after having some upgrades to them. It's not just money that costs, it's time as well; with troubleshooting issues and tweaking the configuration of the devices, to training staff on how to use them and how to get the best use out of them.

With a desktop you can deploy them into a classroom with a well tested OS installation and can pretty much leave them then until the next term break, with the right management tools.

With laptops and tablets you have to invest in a managed wireless solution, costing £10-20k, as having 20+ wireless devices hitting a consumer access point will kill the connection, been there and got the t-shirt. Also with laptops the keyboards are expensive to replace compared to desktops, and kids like to play with the keys, no laptop keyboard is kid-proof.

Tablets, less moving parts yes, but easier to drop. With the amount of use they would get you would probably be looking to replace a fare few screens come the 2 year point.

We as adults look after our 'toys', most of the time. Students, not so much.

With licencing terms, there is a new agreement called EES from Microsoft that allows you to buy licences per full time teaching staff member, instead of per device, saving most schools that move to it a lot of money.

As what @markcr6 says, a unified platform is easier to manage, train for and use; to know that you can buy a piece of software, with a site licence, and use it on all the devices in a school is cheaper then buying for multiple platforms.

By PaulGSeddon on 1 Jun 2012

Agreed with PaulGSeddon

I’d rather replace a knackered monitor, keyboard and mouse, all for under £100, than pitch up £256 to repair a dropped/drowned/vandalised/assaulted iPad.

I suspect PeterMillard either doesn't understand the modern school environment or is an Apple salesman!

By TheHonestTruth on 1 Jun 2012


Paul, our oldest laptops are now heading towards 5 years old and are doing just fine. Maybe our kids treat them better than most. Our most recent laptops have keyboards that can be replaced for around £10 if the worst happens. I don't really see why ChromeBooks should be any different. I'm working on the basis that batteries are going to be our biggest ongoing cost.

Desktop PCs are much cheaper, but they also take up much more space, which is at a massive premium in a small primary school. Plus, tablets and laptops have the huge advantage that they can be moved on and off the classroom desks easily, so used transparently as part of a normal lesson. So the kids get used to using computers as tools for their every day work, just like pen and paper now. As opposed to everyone decamping off to the ICT suite (which we don't have space for in any case) for a special and highly artificial lesson.

I don't see us buying any more desktops now for anyone other than admin staff.

By mrtrilby on 1 Jun 2012


We are well used to web filtering but we also now use e-Safe screen level software. This detects bullying, suicide threats etc Without this or similar on tablet devices I would be very reluctant to allow students to use them. Is there a solution to that problem?

By DougS on 16 Jul 2012

OS lock in

I am the Tech Coordinator for a small school district in the US. When I got to the district the computer systems were highly underpowered. The majority of the machines had WinXP with the usual load of Office, AV, anti-malware, with all of the required add-ons and a system to lock them down. On average the computers would take 3-5 minutes to boot and heaven-forbid you try to open a program! The machines were ordered from 2007-2010 from a small company that supplied them with a whopping 512meg of RAM! Over the last year I have been able to get the machines to a standard 1gig of RAM but the biggest change is that I moved to a Linux based system. I used to work in a correctional facility where I learned how to lock-down Windows very well so I know what it can do. I had 2 months to learn the basics of Linux for my first deployment and most of those are still running. I did make some big mistakes on how far I locked them up and have “re-deployed” several rooms worth a couple of times this year. I have used the last year to learn more and effective ways to secure them without crippling them and am using more “flavors” across my system to meet the request for “something familiar.” I have found versions that can “look” like a MAC, WinXP, and/or Win7 but provide the performance I need to let the students do their work. With the 1gig the machines boot in around 15-20 seconds or less and they are ready to go as soon as the desktop comes up.

With all of that said I learned a big lesson, the kids do not care what they use! My biggest problem is the teachers and other staff. Pulling them out of using “something familiar” you would think I was taking their house away! I have talked to many other tech directors and they are terrified about moving away from Windows because of 1 – the familiarity of it (we have had almost 30 years of indoctrination) and 2 – the investment they have in it. After talking with these director I came to a generalized conclusion, tech people in schools build the computer systems to make the tech people comfortable, not necessarily the best interest of the students.

I am writing this on this forum because I am looking at doing a deployment of a Bring-Your-Own-Device program coupled with a school supplied device for those that cannot afford one and am looking at some of the less expensive tablets to do it. I have found some Android 4 tables for around $100 (around 80 Euro) and will probably use something like these. Right now with the dominant OS in flux, I am going to provide a system that does not care what is used. I will probably always have desktops in classrooms to supplement but I do not need to replace them every 3 or 4 years I just change the OS. Chasing the “cutting edge tech dragon” is very expensive. I have been working a teacher that specializes in technology integration in the classroom and will be working more with her on making the schools computer system more about letting the student choose the tools they use to complete assignments. Rather than limiting them to “You must create a Powerpoint” we would like teacher to tell them “Make a presentation using whatever tool you like the best”.

Sorry about getting long winded about this but to me, those of us in the schools tech world need to shift our thinking and our expenditures from protecting ourselves to providing basic tools for student and let students find programs that they are comfortable to learn with. I am willing to spend a little more time resetting devices rather than a big expense on the front end to prevent everything. I think the student will learn better habits by making the mistake of crashing a device and it will reinforce the “be cautious” concept if they do it once or twice.

I have more but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading.

By Jim_U on 21 Jul 2012

More on "another small point"

The concept of a PC needing to be replaces every 3-4 years is a misnomer, it is the OS that needs to be replaced not necessarily the PC.

By Jim_U on 21 Jul 2012

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