Microsoft jumping into the tablet market with the Surface  is a good thing for education. Competition will push Apple to improve the iPad, push Google to prioritize the ChromePad (or whatever they will call it), and focus the mind of Jeff Bezos on his Amazon Kindle Fire.
If you are a capitalist roader (and who isn't nowadays) then you hold the near religious belief that competition will improve the products and drive down prices.
This is all good for education because - well because - hmm … now why are tablets so good for education?
Let's see…..Can we argue that tablets are cheaper than laptops and therefore will put all those world class open learning materials and MOOCs at the fingertips and eyeballs of more learners?
Maybe a $500 tablet (although the Surface looks to be more expensive) is part of the productivity equation of higher ed. We can't drive down tuition prices, but your computers that you do so much of your learning on will be cheaper.
How about - The tablet of tomorrow is the textbook and coursepack of today. Once tablets become powerful, cheap and ubiquitous we will finally be able to move from paper to digital text materials - curriculum that is multimedia, constantly up-to-date, and socially enabled. Digital textbooks should even be cheaper, as the publishers will no longer need to build into the price the losses they face in the used textbook market.
Cheap and powrerul tablets might even open the door for new publishing models (bundled, open source), new players (beyond the publishing industrial complex), and niche authors and titles (the long tail of textbooks).
Are any of you buying this argument about the how tablets are good for education? And what does this have to do with the future Microsoft Surface?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions about tablet computers and education, but I sure do hope that someone at Microsoft is also asking questions along these education and Surface lines.
I'd like to ask some direct questions to the Microsoft folks.
- Are Microsoft's higher education geeks (people like us) on the Surface product team?
- Is Microsoft thinking about the surface specifically as a solution for the education vertical? Not exclusively for education, but as a combination of hardware and software that can solve education problems?
- What does Microsoft see the education problems that need to be solved? Does Microsoft think it can make money, and make the world a better place, by working on these problems? Does the Surface fit into a larger strategic education plan?
- Does Microsoft have any plans to get any professors and ed tech geeks to Redmond to kick around ideas about how the Surface could work in higher ed? Perhaps talk about what software is needed to make the Surface really great in education?
What would you want to ask Microsoft about Surface?
From what you have been able to see, do you think that Surface will be an interesting product for learning?