Apple goes back to school

Anthony Caruana
5 April, 2018
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In the old days, Apple was seen as being strongly focussed on the needs of two specific niches – creative professionals and education. One of my former colleagues, who went on to run the IT department at one of the country’s largest publishers, was charged with replacing the computers at the publisher, only to find the personnel involved in laying out the newspaper had cordoned off their work area with the blue and white tape police use to block access to a crime scene.

Such was the passion those creative professionals had for the Macs they loved to use.

Teachers were similarly passionate about the Mac – but that was a long time ago. And while the iPad was meant to usher in a new era of Apple dominance in classrooms, something different happened.

Microsoft, Google and others saw the opportunity the iPad was trying to exploit and they muscled in. In the US, Google’s ChromeBooks have made massive inroads in the education market and Microsoft, through a savvy combination of great backend services through their cloud offerings, the ubiquity of Microsoft Office and some snappy new hardware with stir Surface pro hybrid tablet/laptops established a massive presence.

But last week, in Chicago, Apple offered up a revised iPad with support for the Apple Pencil. Ordinarily, the release of a new iPad would be big news. But the new iPad wasn’t the really big news in my view.

Apple is at its best when it pushes the integration envelope. Alongside the new iPad – which is basically the same as the old iPad other than a speed bump to the more-recent-but-not-latest A10 processor and addition of connectivity to the Apple Pencil – there were some new software announcements.

Firstly, all education users now get 200GB of iCloud storage – up from the anaemic 5GB Apple has been offering to most people. I’ve already bumped my personal iCloud account up to 200GB so the other members of my family can back their devices up over Family Sharing.

And they also released updates to the pages, Numbers and Keynote, as well as new curriculum tools and the new Classbook and Classroom apps.

On their own, these are a nice set of new apps. But they aren’t just apps. They are some of the foundation stands at the base of a new education ecosystem.

Apple knows they are being beaten by Google and Microsoft in schools. And that isn’t because those two companies have better hardware or software. it’s because they offer schools an integrated approach to software, hardware and support.

The announcements last week are about Apple creating or rebuilding an ecosystem for education. They know that the next generations of customers are in schools today. So, Apple is playing a long game, creating learning systems and devices that students love. In time, Apple hopes those children will take that preference and experience with them through higher learning and into the workforce.

Apple’s back to school event last week wasn’t just about a new iPad and some apps. It was a signal that they plan to push back into the education business with more than some flashy hardware and cool software.

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