Coventry University has begun deploying Windows 8 tablets from HP to academic staff to support a location-independent working scheme and to simplify desktop IT.
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Coventry University is running a pilot of 50 HP ElitePad 900 Atom-based Windows 8 Pro tablets for academics in the nursing and healthcare department.
"We are leaving their desktop in place. Once they get used to them, we will give users the option of having a docking station and monitor for the ElitePad when in their office or they can stick with their existing desktop," said Neil Shorthouse, head of local delivery for IT services at Coventry University.
He said the ElitePad was the best choice for the staff, as people can stick with a familiar Windows environment and applications, instead of having to learn iOS or Android. "We found people were previously going down the iPad route but it wasn’t as intuitive, since they have been using Windows at work." He said the ElitePad enables them to run the applications they are familiar with and access their local H: network drive.
“They can use the same software in the office or in the lecture theatre," said Shorthouse.
Shorthouse said he had received good feedback on the ElitePad from users. "It is lightweight and in terms of battery life people are getting a day’s work on battery power," he said. But he recommends people use HP’s expansion jacket battery, if they want to use the ElitePad for commuting as well as a day’s work.
He agreed that the 60GB SSD on the ElitePad may not be large compared to a desktop PC. "You do have to manage the space," said Shorthouse.
"But our shared drive offers 5GB of storage per user. We are also using Microsoft SkyDrive and Remote Desktop to give people access to their documents."
Coventry University took a decision to carry on running Windows 7 while it deployed new Windows 8 devices. Shorthouse said: "Normally when we migrate from one OS to another, everyone switches at the same time.
"But this time, every tablet will have Windows 8 and Office 2013. On the desktop we will use Windows 7 and Office 2010."
He admitted running two desktop OSs could create support issues – since the IT department will need to maintain separate software images for the two operating system environments they deploy. "It creates a slight challenge to our development environment since we have had to train users on a smaller scale compared to a major roll-out," said Shorthouse.
He said the most difficult part of using the ElitePad was the move to Windows 8. "I found that when you are in desktop mode and you want to open a new application, you need to switch to Windows 8 mode."
Shorthouse is looking forward to the availability of Windows 8.1 on October 18, which promises to simplify launching applications without the need to switch back and forth between the different user interfaces in Windows 8. "We will move to Windows 8.1, put it on devices first and then update all users. A lot of people miss the Windows 7 Start button," he said.
Coventry University is also looking at HP’s new Revolve hybrid device. The university will be using the Intel i7 powered Revolve configured with 16 GB ram. The Revolve works like a traditional notebook, but the screen can rotate, turning it into a tablet.
Shorthouse believes the device would fit well in applications areas like engineering, which require more complex applications and can be used both as a portable computer and a desktop PC. "You can plug the Revolve into a docking station and use a large monitor.” The benefit to IT is that users only need to carry one device. He said: "There is no need for a second device, which means there is a cost saving for IT."
The savings arise because Coventry would not need to manage multiple OS images if users had the same device for desktop and mobile use. The more devices an organisation deploys, the more support issues IT will face. "We like consistency, It can take an experienced person a week to test and make sure an image is working," he added.
Last year airline Emirates deployed the HP ElitePad 900 to provide cabin crew staff with alerts on security, track passenger seat swaps and take payment for upgrades via the in-flight duty-free system.