Friday, May 26, 2006

Is the new TI Calculator good news for TI?

Texas instruments are about to launch a new model of handheld calculator, with the rather long name of the TI-Nspire™ CAS+.

At first glance this is an obvious and beneficial evolution of their product line. It appears to have a much higher resolution grayscale display like basic Palm's or Pocket PCs, and they have used this opportunity to tweak the software so that instead of having to switch between a spreadsheet view, calculator view or graph view, they can be displayed at once in a basic windowing system. It can also drive a full size monitor.

But I think that TI may be being drawn into dangerous ground. Consider the strength of their position, which as I commented at the start of the year, is based on calculators being supported in the classroom and exams but computers not. As the TI Calculators become more like handheld computers the pressure will increase to allow a wider range of computer solutions. As the conceptual gulf closes, TI's software (barely changed Derive from 15 years ago) will come under closer scrutiny. In the calculator world it is very impressive, in the PC world it would lose to almost every technical system available on capabilities and most of them on ease of use.

It is also only a matter of time before pocket PC's become routinely powerful enough to run PC based scientific software, blurring the distinction further(and perhaps only a few more years before your mobile phone can).

But what can TI do? They can't resist the pressure to advance towards this state, like lemmings drawn to the security of the lemming in front. Surely the solution is some serious investment in their software, but they haven't shown any interest in that yet.

Update 7 Sep 06: TI Nspire Calculator delayed
Update 23 Nov 06: Derive to be discontinued


mjc said...

Haven't found any pictures yet, but is sure reads like the classpad 300.

Maybe they are also feeling some heat from the HP 49G+.

Roger Fuller said...

I am a U.S.A. high school math teacher who is active in the TI calculator community, but also has had considerable experience in the computer field before coming back to education again.

Yes, most of what you say has some merit, but I don't think TI is lemming-driven in its development. Math education in first-world countries outside the U.S.A. has been moving steadily towards CAS. TI sees a market and is responding.

I am currently enrolled in a TI trainer development course that will enable TI to increase the penetration and utilization of its products in the U.S. This is a new innitiative that started small last year. Well over a thousand teachers are being trained in these 9-day classes aimed at classroom practice.

The Ontario region of Canada is a hotbed of CAS activity and it appears that it will be the North American entry point for the calc rollout.

Progress leave little choice but to chaneg or be bypassed. TI seems to be strengthening its current footprint while stepping toward the future with the TI-Nspire™ CAS.

Scientific Computing said...

I fully support the use of CAS in education. While TI is investing in pushing that message, my point is that it is not investing in the CAS component but is investing in defending the hardware platform.

I believe that the idea of single-purpose-hardware is running out of time. As devices that you already carry like mobile phones become capable of running TI's Derive software, and the $100 laptop projects threaten to deliver a general PC platform as cheaply as a calculator - why have a platform (the calculator) that can ONLY run Derive?

It is that question that threatens the TI calculator, and as the calculator looks more like a PC, one that will get asked more.

When calculator software is seperated from the hardware delivery platform, TI may wish they had invested more in the actual calculation features of the software.

Sam Nejad said...

BITTERLY DISAPPOINTED by the new TI Nspire CAS. Texas Instruments has known for many years that its graphic calculators are missing several essential features:
1) A small loudspeaker to alert when a process is finished.
2) A clock to time start & stop of functions.
3) A memory chip, nowadays an SD memory slot.
4) More powerful programming features, eg, Flags, error caching, single step, indirect memory addressing. All these were available on the TI58 & 59, what happened to them?
I've been a long time TI fan and have a TI fansite at , come on TI, enough is enough, lift your game.
Sam Nejad, Western Australia.

Anonymous said...

The CASIO fx-9860SD has a SD card slot, really fast (SuperH CPU can be scaled to 160MHz), natural textbook display with a clear screen and affordable:

Anyways, a CASIO Classpad 300 is nice also.

Anonymous said...

ti calculators are made for education, and they aim to be more user-friendly as possible.
nobody needs a speaker or "more powerful programming functions" on a modern calculator. maybe ancient machines did need that, because they were computers "de facto".

ti-nspire is made for MATH and basic programming: its easy-to-use graphical interface is made to let user concentrate only on this; and not worry about speakers activating during an agebra exam.

if anybody needs a pocket device to program in assembler while on the bus, there are a lot of other machines: older calculators, pocket pc's...

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. We should be teaching with computers, not calculators. In the 1980s they were a step forward, but today they are archaic.

Anonymous said...

To "scientific computing" and the author; derive ran on pocket PC's in the early 90s. There have been no decent CAS on handhelds/palmtops/cell phones, ever. I tried all the pretenders; Derive is still the best pocket PC platform, and it's apparently reproduced on the TI machines. I'd actually prefer a more computer or PDA like device with a CAS on it (Maple was going to do this for a while with casio, allegedly: I don't know if the 300 is the result of this collaboration). Mostly, it is a software problem. TI was smart for buying the only embeddable CAS at the time. Now a days, I doubt as there is anyone capable of writing that small, handy and useable a CAS.

Anonymous said...

Just curious to see if anyone has looked at Zoom Algebra for the TI platform. Would they qualify as a worthwile and usable CAS, or just a pretender.

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of disappointing things about the nSpire. The Casio ClassPad sounds much better so I'm seriously considering buying one instead of waiting for the TI.

Mara@TexasInstruments said...

Hello Everyone!

My name is Mara Morhouse and I work for TI in the Education and Technology Department.

I've been reading through all of your posts and I find your thoughts very helpful and interesting.

If anyone has ANY questions feel free to email me at . I am more than happy to discuss any and all aspects of our products and services.

Best of luck to all of you.