The two dominant mobile operating systems are Apple’s iOS (which is installed on iPads and iPhones) and Google’s Android operating system (which is installed on a range of tablets and phones). Microsoft makes a version of Windows available for mobile devices and the open source community also makes version of Linux available, but these are much as less-widely used than iOS and Android. Mobile operating systems do allow users to adjust the settings and configurations, but these devices feature a single profile on the device, so changes one user makes affects all users; this limits the usefulness in some schools. It is not unusual or IT professionals to find school leaders become strong advocates for purchasing mobile devices once they realize the ease of use that characterizes mobile devices. Those school leaders are not always fully aware of the difficulty of managing devices intended for single users in a school where devices are used by many different users for many different purposes.
Among the populations that have found the greatest success using tablet computers that use mobile operating systems are those educators who work with special education students. A number of factors, including the mobility of the devices, the individualization that is possible with the apps installed on the devices, the multimedia nature of the devices, and the haptic control are all features that have been identified as useful for this particular population of students.
Devices with mobile operating systems tend to be more affordable than those with full operating systems. Depending on the size of the screen and the quality of display and size of the memory, the same IT manager who estimated $1000 per unit for desktops or laptops would probably estimate $400 per unit that uses a mobile operating system, but he or she would be hesitant to make a final estimate before the option for managing the devices was specified. For example, some IT managers who purchase iPads decide to purchase a desktop computer and reserve it for the purpose of managing the devices through a third party system.
A further concern for deploying devices with mobile operating systems is the capacity of the wireless network. Mobile devices are designed to function the best when they are connected to the Internet. While users can take pictures, record video, create documents, and otherwise be productive on a mobile device with no network connection, there are limited options for adding software, sharing files, and otherwise using the devices when they are not connected to the Internet.