Higher tech for higher ed
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Sunday, August 01, 2010
8/01/10 at 4:45 AM
Colleges have demanding tech standards. Many require students to have laptops with DVD drives. Some degree programs insist on a computer powerful enough to run certain programs.
And at colleges such as Oral Roberts University, analog televisions just won't cut it anymore.
Brandon Morgan, a graduate student in divinity, found that out the hard way.
"I'm looking for a TV because the university switched everything to digital, so I've had to go without since December," he said while shopping at the Best Buy store at the Tulsa Hills shopping center.
In the now-familiar August ritual, students hoping to keep up with higher ed requirements are hitting the electronics departments for high-tech school supplies.
But students may be reining in their spending as the economy continues to sputter. The National Consumer Federation estimated that college-age students will spend $236.94 on computers, cell phones, MP3 players, cameras and other electronics, down from the high of $266.08 reached last year.
Shaun Henderson, the executive team leader at the Target store at Tulsa Hills, said it's too soon to tell how much local students will spend.
"We expect to have a much bigger sales increase much closer to when classes start," he said. "That's when they usually come."
As for what students are looking for, Lucas Nickell, the digital life supervisor at Best Buy in Tulsa Hills, said computers are always strong sellers for students, although they're only one piece of a digital ecosystem nowadays.
"Students are now looking at how all the devices interact with each other," he said. "It's no longer all about computers, it's a little bit of everything."
For example, televisions and Blu-ray players are increasingly connecting to the Internet, he said. Youtube videos, video lectures and movies from Netflix can all be streamed to TV screens without the need of a computer anchor.
But that's not the only option for video on demand on a bigger screen. Nickell said laptops sold under Best Buy's Blue Label PC brand are pre-loaded with technology to push content to televisions via a local WiFi network.
Even cameras are getting into the action, he said, noting the Kodak Slice series.
"Whenever you connect it to your computer, it automatically prompts you to share your photos with your social network sites," he said.
Laptops are still the favored machine for students because they're more portable than desktops yet, are powerful and have enough features to handle anything professors throw at them, Nickell said.
"Netbooks and iPads are more for surfing and social media," he said.
Still, Henderson said some students are picking up netbooks at Target as secondary devices, so they can surf the Internet on the go without having to bring a bulkier laptop. Accessories for the devices often make it on supply lists, as well. "Right now, I'm selling a lot of things like laptop cases and mice," he said.
E-readers, such as Amazon's Kindle, have often been touted as the textbook platform of the future, but Henderson said it's impossible to tell yet whether students are getting on board because the devices are frequently sold out. "I think Amazon didn't figure they'd sell as many as they thought they would," he said.
Nickell noted that space is tight in dormitory rooms, causing students to gravitate toward smaller TVs. Some students are taking an extra step, picking up TVs with Blu-ray players integrated in them.
Nickell said it was too soon to tell whether the economy will affect tech spending. Still, Katy Osborne, a sophomore at the University of Central Oklahoma at Edmond, and Alex Graham, a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, said they were in Best Buy just to pick up music CDs.
"We're too broke to pick up anything complicated," Osborne said.
Robert Evatt 581-8447
Nathan Enerson, 22, a Southeastern Oklahoma State University student, shops for iPod accessories at the Best Buy store in Tulsa Hills Shopping Center. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World
Brandon Morgan, 24, an Oral Roberts University student, shops for a new television at a Best Buy store. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World
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