After ballyhooed debut, some schools see problems with iPad

Some schools say despite connection problems, their networks will be ready for the iPad.
Some schools say their networks will be ready for the iPad this fall, despite early connection problems.

The euphoria that greeted the Apple iPad on college campuses has waned somewhat in recent weeks, as technology officials at a handful of universities have issued warnings that the much sought-after eReader might not be compatible with school web networks or could overwhelm campus bandwidth capabilities.

Education technology officials on campuses that can’t currently support the iPad say their networks and internet security will be iPad-friendly by next school year. Meanwhile, some other institutions—such as Rutgers University, George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., and North Carolina State University—embraced the popular eReader just days after its release.

George Fox’s incoming freshmen will receive a new iPad when they come to campus next fall, and North Carolina State students and faculty can rent the device for four-hour intervals from the school’s library.

Despite some technical troubles at George Washington University and Princeton University, eReader experts said higher-education officials will find ways to incorporate the iPad into their campus curriculum, partly because college students trust Apple’s brand name enough to make the eReader a surefire hit among 20-somethings.

“Schools are looking at them and saying, ‘We want to be cutting-edge,’” said Jay McGoodwin, CEO of, an online learning service used on campuses nationwide, including the University of California, Berkeley. “It has all the attractive features that Apple is so well regarded for—great, crisp graphics, nice size. It’s what makes the iPad the flavor of the day.”

A survey conducted by financial services firm Morgan Stanley in April showed that the iPad was most popular among consumers ages 25-34. Nearly three in 10 respondents from that age group said they were “interested” in buying an iPad, and 20 percent of respondents who own an iPhone, iPod, or Mac computer are “extremely interested” in buying Apple’s latest release, compared with 4.6 percent of respondents overall.

Apple announced the sale of its one millionth iPad on May 3—28 days after its introduction. Apple is projected to sell up to 5 million iPads in the U.S. during its first year on the market, according to the Morgan Stanley report.

“I think the iPad has made it very difficult for [other eReaders] to be competitive in the school setting,” McGoodwin said, adding that the Apple device won’t be “the panacea that some in education hope it will be. But it’s hard to argue against the iPad as a more compelling device.”

Growing pains for iPads on campus

George Washington University officials said in April that iPads can’t connect to the school’s internet network, because the eReader doesn’t pass university security standards. IT officials “believe iPads will work on our wireless network this summer,” although the network won’t support the iPad’s “full functionality” until spring 2011, according to the university’s announcement.

George Washington is testing two pilot networks that will “address the increasing use of mobile computing devices on campus while enhancing network security measures,” including iPads and other eReaders like the Amazon Kindle, the school said.

Princeton University IT decision makers, meanwhile, have reported that the Apple eReader disrupts the campus network because the iPad uses an expired IP address.

“When a customer’s device malfunctions this way repeatedly, Princeton blocks that particular device from using those campus network services,” the university said in a press release explaining a “workaround” technique for students who want to use an iPad on campus. “Because the problems were so common and began as soon as the iPads arrived, we felt it unlikely that the problem was due to customer misconfiguration. It seemed more likely to be an issue common to the iPad/iPhone OS 3.2 platform.”

Cornell University on April 23 countered media reports claiming the iPad was banned on the Ithaca, N.Y., campus because officials feared that too many iPads would overload the school’s web network. The reports surfaced after iPad users were blocked from internet service on the Cornell campus.

School officials said that, much like Princeton, they found iPads’ IP addresses caused disruptions on the network. Cornell now sells the Apple device on campus and has created a web page with directions telling students how to connect university eMail accounts to Apple’s newest mobile device.

Most U.S. colleges and universities haven’t reported any problems with the iPad connecting to campus networks, and IT and library officials at some schools are promoting the use of Apple’s eReader. George Fox University, which has given a new computer to incoming freshmen for 20 years, will offer iPads to freshmen before the fall 2010 semester.

Greg Smith, the university’s chief information officer, said the portable eReader will accommodate students accustomed to accessing the internet and doing school work anywhere, not just the school library or their dormitory.

“With this, we’re basically asking students: ‘What computing system will work best for you?’” Smith said in an announcement. “The trend in higher-education computing is this concept of mobility, and this fits right in with that trend. … At the same time, we realize there are a number of uncertainties. Will students struggle with a virtual keyboard? Can the iPad do everything students need it to do when it comes to their college education? These are the kinds of questions we really won’t know the answer to until we get started.”

Apple’s Jobs says ‘no’ to Adobe Flash

Apple CEO Steve Jobs made it more difficult for college students to play popular online video games and watch web-based videos via their iPads when he said April 29 that the company’s eReader would not support the widely-used Flash technology.

In a detailed offensive against the technology owned by Adobe Systems Inc., Jobs wrote on April 29 that Flash has too many bugs, drains batteries too quickly, and is too oriented to personal computers to work on the iPhone and iPad.

This is not the first time Jobs has publicly criticized Flash, but the statement was his clearest, most definitive—and longest—on the subject.

In his 1,685-word “Thoughts on Flash,” Jobs laid out his reasons for excluding Flash—the most widely used vehicle for videos and games on the internet—from Apple’s blockbuster handheld devices.

He cited “reliability, security, and performance,” and the fact that Flash was designed “for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers” as some of the reasons Apple will continue to keep the program off its devices.

But he said the most important reason is Flash puts a third party between Apple and software developers. In other words, developers can take advantage of improvements from Apple only if Adobe upgrades its own software, Jobs wrote.

Adobe representatives did not have an immediate comment on April 29. But in a March 23 conference call, President and CEO Shantanu Narayen said his company is “committed to bringing Flash to any platform on which there is a screen.”

That certainly includes Apple’s devices, and Narayen said at the time the Flash ban “has nothing to do with technology.”

“It’s an Apple issue, and I think you’ll have to check with them on that,” he said.

McGoodwin of said his company would “adapt accordingly” to Apple’s Flash decision, partly because the eReader has gained almost immediate traction in higher education.

“We’re committed to supporting [the iPad],” he said. “We will make it possible for students to access our content … whether they use an iPad or not.”

Adobe has owned Flash since buying its creator, Macromedia Inc., in 2005. Flash is one of the slew of software tools Adobe sells to professional designers and web developers as part of its Creative Suite software package, which also includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and other programs, and brings in more than half of Adobe’s revenue. Adobe benefits from Flash’s wide use, because it means web developers will keep buying the tools they need to create Flash content.

Although many web sites use Flash to display videos, animation, and internet ads, this might change in the years to come. HTML5, a new web standard—that is, a way to create web pages—will have built-in support for video and audio files.

But it could take as long as 10 years for HTML5 to be fully adopted, said Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research. What Apple is banking on is that HTML5 will eventually win out, making Flash obsolete.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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