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Expert Predicts a Deluge of Tablet Computers on Campuses

Las Vegas—In his keynote address at the Higher Ed Tech Summit, Walt Mossberg, the influential technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, told an audience of higher-education officials and company executives that their future held many tablet computers. And not just the iPad, but some of the 70 or so new tablet devices that have been announced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show here.

Speaking yesterday, Mr. Mossberg noted that CES this year should be renamed “TES” because there were so many of the things. (There was Motorola’s new Xoom, for instance, and Dell’s Streak 7, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Hybrid—a laptop with a detachable tablet—and devices from Samsung, Toshiba, Motion …)

And tablets will matter in higher education, Mr. Mossberg said, because students will bring them to campus, and colleges and—in particular—publishers will need to meet their needs. “The actual users, like students and faculty, will barge in,” he said.

Books should cost less, and they should be digital, Mr. Mossberg said. He is a trustee of Brandeis University, and “I vote on cost-cutting at every meeting. So the idea of having to spend a fortune on books is just primitive.” Course materials, including books, are less expensive in digital form, and tablets make them easy to use. “The multi-touch tablet computer has a serious chance of challenging the mouse-based interface, which has been around since the 1960s and came to fruition in the 1970s,” Mr. Mossberg said.

The technology columnist pointed out that the other major trend that will affect colleges is cloud computing, or the use of Internet-based software. Now, it may seem this news is less than surprising, as software companies have been beating this drum loudly for years. Still, colleges have not been listening. The latest Campus Computing Project survey, completed in the fall of 2010, reported that only 15 percent of campuses have a strategic plan to address cloud computing. So perhaps the reminder from the Brandeis trustee was timely.

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