Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The #edtech Platform Wars - iOS vs Andoid, Mac vs Windows

I’m a Mac guy. I make no bones about it and absolutely no apologies. I am a fan-boy, a geek, a Kool-Aid drinker -- whatever it is you feel like calling me, I freely admit to it. However, when it comes to spending technology money in my school, and evaluating technology for the educational setting, I put those feelings aside and look for the best, most efficient and cost effective strategy possible. And the one that fits within our purchasing guidelines... Nothing kills innovation faster than bureaucracy...

So, if I’m such the altruistic, fair and balanced tech guy, why is my school completly Mac and iPad based? I’d love to tell you it’s my personal toy closet, but I can’t. The instructional technology decisions within my school are weighted far more on bureaucracy than actual use. To elaborate....

The New York City Department of Education:
  • Has exclusivity contracts with PC vendors. Right now we are in the middle of a five year deal with Lenovo. No other option (before Lenovo it was Dell). I would love Chromebooks, but since Lenovo doesn’t make ‘em, we can’t buy ‘em.
  • Apple is a “sole vendor,” meaning since they are the only company that makes their hardware and software, they are an exception to the Lenovo contract.
  • Our Lenovo purchasing options are limited.
  • Our Apple purchasing options are the entire line.
  • The Apple product line is far superior to the available Lenovo options.

So, simply put, from a PC vs. Mac standpoint, it is easier to standardize on Macs. We can order iMacs of various sizes and configurations, MacBookPros, MacBookAirs, iPads, and all Apple accessories. We have one, yes one, Lenovo netbook option. We have one, yes one, Lenovo desktop option. Doesn’t exactly provide a lot of flexibility on the PC side.

As for the mobile space? iPads were the natural selection as they were the first mass-market tablet (yes, there were Android devices out first, but none with quite the instant success) and we are a Mac school. The other reason boils down to my original, fan-boy love of Apple and my odd geek proclivities... Proxies.

Proxies? Yes, proxies. If you’re not familiar with a proxy, it is basically the system’s firewall. In the DOE, when we open a web browser it calls up a centrally managed DOE server first, before heading to the wilds of the Internet. The proxy allows us to block YouTube, Facebook, etc. In order to access the Internet, you need to configure your device to connect to the DOE proxy server. iPads allow custom proxy configurations, meaning they can talk to the DOE firewall. Android devices, such as the Kindle and Nook, do not support custom proxy configurations.

You know I was going to say it, so here it goes, the thing with the Apple stuff is “it just works...”
(sorry, had to say it).

All this is to say we standardized on Apple for three main reasons:
  • Apple provided the widest product line available for purchase;
  • All Apple products are supported on our network;
  • and most of all, Apple is an approved vendor and we’re allowed to buy their products
(as I’ve mentioned, even though I’m a fan-boy, I’d be all over Chromebooks if the DOE would let us buy them. I’ve used them and they are amazing devices, especially for Google Apps schools such as ourselves).

Simply put, we looked at the technology products we were capable of purchasing. We evaluated our limited options. We felt our money was best spent on a product line and manufacturer more stable in the education space, as well as one that wasn’t potentially going to go away at the end of a five year contract. The tablets of our choice fit right within that.

I am grateful I get to use products I love all day long. However, when I make technology expenditure decisions for my school, I make them with an eye toward long term use, flexibility and stability. In my opinion, there is no more stable a computing environment, across all spaces, than the one offered by Apple.


  1. We are PC here in our Board and always have been. Started to buy iPads and iPods but the more of these we buy the more issues there are in syncing them and such. We have cases that hold 25 iPads and iPods and it would be much easier to use a Mac to sync everything than a PC. In the next month I am planning to buy a Mac for the school to make our lives easier! Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Tim.

      Other than Internet Explorer (which is a different browser architecture than most others) I don't think you'll notice a difference in your day-to-day computing once you get the Mac. What'll you'll notice is how much easier it makes life, especially in the context of your mobile devices.

      Would love to hear how it goes working a Mac into such Win-centric environment.