Commentary

Apple Goes To School To Reboot iPad's Cred As A Learning Tool

In a bid to regain momentum in the K-12 market — particularly against the cheaper Google Chomebooks — Apple executives yesterday trekked to Lane Tech High School in Lakeview, Ill., to unveil a new 9.7-inch, 32GB, $299 iPad that will support the Apple Pencil stylus, just as its more expensive versions do.

They also showed off “a slew of software and features that cater to students and their teachers,” reports Ally Marotti for the Chicago Tribune, announcing “tools for teachers to better manage their assignments and students’ work and a new curriculum to integrate skills like music, photography and drawing into lesson plans.”

It was quite the event, if a bit more harrowing than the staged reveals that Steve Jobs was famous for.

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“After a presentation, with the likes of Apple’s head of marketing, its head of retail, and — why not — Al Gore in attendance, Apple dispatched reporters and others out into classrooms to test out some of the things it announced onstage,” writes Mike Murphy for Quartz. “My classroom had a few tables dotted with iPads in it. A group of former teachers were there to walk us through the software. Much like they would be in a real classroom, the iPads were locked by the teacher, so I couldn’t do anything on the one in front of me until an authority figure unlocked it. I tried to force it to reset and I couldn’t do that either. I’m lucky I didn’t get detention.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook must have had a less stressful academic career than Murphy and some of the rest of us. “I don’t know about you, but I want to go back to school,” he said during the event, the Trib’s Marotti writes. 

“Why all the fuss? Two reasons: Apple’s tablets are popular, already outselling Mac computers. And, as the song goes, the children are the future: Apple used to dominate in schools, but in recent years Chromebooks gobbled up about 60% of the U.S. education market, according to analysis firm FutureSource,” writes Geoffrey A. Fowler for the Washington Post. “Last year, Microsoft software accounted for roughly 22%. Apple’s iOS held 12.3% and its MacOS had 4.7%.

“Of course, iPads aren’t only popular with students,” Fowler points out. “They’ve become a mainstay of e-book and periodical readers, Netflix-in-bed watchers and creative types who attach accessories to the $650-and-up iPad Pro models. After 13 quarters of declines, iPad sales reignited last summer thanks to a price cut and new iPad Pro models.”

But that same model that costs students $299 is $329 for anyone else, just as it is now.

Mind you, this is not a device that will do everything you might expect right out of the box — even down to the new attribute Apple touts in the headline of its news release.

“While the new iPad does work with an Apple Pencil, it’s still sold separately and hasn’t received a price drop for consumers (it’s $89 for students). Instead, Apple announced a cheaper third-party stylus that’ll work with the iPad called the Logitech Crayon. At $49, the Crayon has colorful orange bands that look a bit more playful than the original Pencil stylus,” writes Natt Garun for The Verge. “Apple also says Logitech will offer a $99 iPad case with a keyboard component that’s designed to be rugged,” he adds.

“While the new Apple introductions are a good step forward, they ignore the basic fact that iPads — especially with the addition of the Pencil—are still pretty expensive for most schools,” TECHnalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell tells Fast Company’s Mark Sullivan in an email.

“My biggest concern with today’s announcement is around hardware price,” said IDC analyst Tom Mainelli another email, echoing the sentiment. Indeed, “many people had speculated that Apple would announce an iPad with a more aggressive price drop — at least for educators,” Sullivan points out, adding that “Apple itself had indicated it would like to get the price point down to $259.”

Apple is also looking beyond the classroom — a $17.1 billion market worldwide last year — for iPad customers, of course.

“The three key iWork apps — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote — are getting updated to support the Apple Pencil. There’s also a new set of templates in Apple's digital book authoring software, which also earns support for the Pencil. Third-party apps will likely follow and add support for the stylus,” writes Michael Calore for Wired.

Yesterday's event, unlike most, was not live-streamed, Jefferson Graham reports for USA Today.  But CEO Cook participated in a one-hour special with MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Recode’s Kara Swisher, “Revolution: Apple Changing the World,” that will air on MSNBC on Friday, April 6, at 8 p.m.

1 comment about "Apple Goes To School To Reboot iPad's Cred As A Learning Tool".
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  1. Anne Zeiser from Azure Media, March 28, 2018 at 8:54 a.m.

    This is a pointed attempt for Apple to get back to its roots. Remember the days when Apple made a name for itself by donating Apple products to schools? That move both increasd awareness and use of the the counter-culture personal computer and helped get needed technology into schools. 

    Nowadays, Chromebooks dominate schools, supported by a suite of school-friendly Google software products.  My son's middle school has a teacher who's also a Google specialist whose job is to teach teachers and kids how to use all the products- for example, creating graphs for data collected in science class etc. Google's fully entrenched.

    Apple has a ways to go to regain the school market. It's chief poroblem, the cost of Apple products. (This is now a real problem with the consumer market too; $1,000 for a smart phone)

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