Apple executives will put the spotlight on the iPad’s educational value tomorrow at its planned San Jose event, according to a new Bloomberg Businessweek report. The report cites “a person with knowledge of the planning” of the event as the source, but doesn’t go into further detail about how specifically they’ll be promoting it from an educational perspective. But if Apple’s introducing a lower-cost iPad mini as expected, the benefits in terms of institutional purchases are obvious.
At a reported starting price of around $329, the iPad mini would be a full $170 cheaper than the latest iPad, and $70 cheaper than the current selling price of the iPad 2. That’s bound to attract interest from educators, given that iPads are already being adopted by many school districts in the U.S., both in pilot programs and in full-scale deployment, as in the San Diego Unified School District, which is deploying around 26,000 iPads to students this year.
Apple has also been pushing education initiatives on the software side in the past couple of years, with dedicated iTunes U applications for instructors, teachers and students, and an iBooks publisher geared towards creating interactive, rich media-filled digital textbooks for educational use. That attention isn’t going unnoticed – back in August, IDC released a market share report regarding worldwide tablet shipments and noted that education in particular is a vertical where interest in Apple’s tablet is on the rise.
Promoting the iPad as an educational tool will likely involve not only highlighting the device’s past and current success in this area, but also making a concerted, forward-looking sales pitch as well. Others have clearly noticed that the education market is a clear area for promoting tablet growth, like Amazon, which recently added to the existing appeal of its bargain-basement Kindle Fire pricing (a souped up version of last year’s model retails for $159) with a new free Whispercast mobile device management platform that lets schools easily deploy updates and content to a whole fleet of Kindle hardware, with support for Kindle Fire Android software coming soon.
Apple has first-mover advantage, which is important with education markets, since the processes involved in making institution-wide IT procurement decisions can take quite a while to get rolling, and it’s hard to switch horses mid-race. But Amazon’s clearly playing hardball with education, which not only leads to higher device sales near-term, but also exposes whole new generations to a company’s devices early on in life. Education could be where the sparks really fly as Apple diversifies its tablet lineup, and it’ll be interesting to see how the company girds for that battle on stage at tomorrow’s event, should this report prove accurate.