Remember the Kno? It was an interesting idea that was taken by many to be an impossible or doomed project many months ago. The basic idea was that a tablet PC optimized for educational needs and being about the size and weight of a standard undergraduate textbook would go over impressively in the same market where the Kindle failed to make an impression in early tests. Well, as of 12/21 the thing has actually entered the market!
The major selling points seem to be the focus on textbooks and note taking. Looking through the initial offerings, there seems to be quite the selection of digital textbooks already and supposedly more deals are on the way. Particularly interesting for many will be the textbook rental option which will allow students to grab their texts for just a semester at a time for a reduced price. How many people end up needing their Biology 101 text after their first year anyway, right? Right along with that, the fact that you can write directly on the screen, allowing the potential for easy margin notation or a virtual notepad will address one of the problems with the Kindle‘s classroom usefulness. Ease of use on what is among the most important study related activities for many will help.
Beyond that, a lot is riding on the as-yet unrealized potential offered by the app market. Since the whole system is essentially built on the WebKit browser engine, development should be impressively simple and offer a variety of possibilities. The initial offerings of book reading, web browsing, and note taking apps will fill most basic needs, but it’s always best to see some development after the devices have seen some time in the wild, so to speak.
On the negatives side, we still have a very narrowly purposed device and a comparatively high price point. There is no usable USB port, so you’re stuck with the on-screen keyboard or a stylus. It’s a bit on the heavy side as far as something you’re hoping to do any reading is concerned. Also, I have to emphasize that based on the specs this is definitely a reading and web browsing device rather than a PC replacement. It has limited hard drive space, unimpressive speed, and no real expandability. For full tech specs, click here.
Overall, I like the product though. As the developers emphasize on the sales site, your investment(whether it be $599 for the single screen 16GB unit or $999 for the dual screen 32GB unit) will pay off over the course of a year or two, assuming the student using it is able to get the majority of their textbooks through the Kno’s text store, which is something you’ve got to hope to be able to do for this to make sense in the first place.
It isn’t going to be for everybody. This isn’t a Kindle for book reading or an iPad for general use tablet applications. It’s strictly academic. That said, we can only hope that it sees some success. It would certainly be great to have access to something like this that would really allow eBooks to make a splash in the textbook market.