Windows 8 Beats Out iOS and Android at Seton Hall

In a world where iPads and Android devices are the rage, Seton Hall University bucked the BYOD trend and opted for Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks for students and faculty, even though the OS doesn't ship officially until October. Why did the university go all in on Windows 8?

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Mon, August 06, 2012

CIO — The release of Windows 8 may still be months away, but Seton Hall University isn't waiting for general availability of the new operating system in October. It's already using it on tablets and ultrabooks.

As part of its SHUmobile program — a collaboration with Microsoft, AT&T and Nokia — Seton Hall is giving incoming freshman either a Samsung Series 7 tablet running the Windows 8 Release Preview version or a Samsung Series 5 laptop running Windows 7, depending on what area of study the student is pursuing.

All devices will be upgraded to Windows 8 RTM when the OS is generally available this fall.

Seton Hall students will also get a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone loaded with a customized app that contains student and faculty contact information as well as general campus information.

Seton Hall University
Incoming Seton Hall freshmen play with new Windows 8 Samsung tablets at orientation in June. (Credit: Seton Hall University)

To complete the initiative, the university is upgrading its campus-wide email, storage, communications and collaboration platform to Microsoft Office 365.

Such offerings are a reboot of Seton Hall's 14-year-old Mobile Computing Program, which provided incoming freshmen with a laptop as part of their tuition and then an upgraded machine in their junior year.

Students Want Tablets: Is Windows 8 the Answer?

While laptops have been the traditional hardware choice for college students, lately, there's been an itch for lighter, more modern hardware, says Stephen Landry, CIO of Seton Hall.

"There has definitely been a growing interest in tablets," Landry says. "In the science department we've been issuing students and faculty the Lenovo X Series machines running Windows 7, a convertible laptop with a touchscreen that swivels and folds down to become a tablet that uses a stylus pen."

But Windows 7 was not designed for touchscreen functionality and although it works well with a pen, Landry says, it is "not a satisfactory" tablet experience.

However, Landry still pushed for a full-bore tablet environment this year. After considering putting tablets off until 2013, Landry warmed to Windows 8, Microsoft's highly anticipated next iteration of Windows, launching in late October. Landry got on board as a Microsoft First Wave customer in April and cut his teeth on Windows 8 through a sometimes frustrating Consumer Preview.

"Windows 8 consumer preview had its problems, from getting the devices to recognize our Seton Hall sh.edu domain to bumpy navigation with the Metro interface," Landry says.

"But Microsoft provided great support. We had a list of what we thought was wrong. And the patches came. That gave me comfort. And 99 percent of our issues were resolved with the Windows 8 Release Preview. It was ultimately enough of a game-changer for us on tablets."

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