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The Apple Education Event: Some Thoughts
January 19, 2012 - 9:00pm

The Apple Education Event is now available to watch online.  Have you checked it out yet?

We will have to see how this all plays out in the next 24 months, if Apple's push for iPad textbooks gains any significant market share (vs. mindshare), if textbook prices move at all, and how other digital textbook players such as Inkling, Chegg, and Kno  are impacted.

For now, a few thoughts:

An Education Focus:

The most rewarding aspect of the Apple event was that they put education front and center. I'm amazed that it took until 2012 for a major technology company to position education as a core part of their strategic plan. 

Education will be the most important business of the 21st century. The global opportunities for education, particularly in emerging economies, will dwarf almost all other businesses. 

The demand for education, at all levels but particularly at the post-secondary level, will hugely outstrip the ability of both  existing supply and the existing delivery models.   Learners in China, India, South America, and Africa will together easily make up the largest market (by numbers and dollars) for higher education in our lifetimes.  

Apple did not talk about global higher ed in this event, but I hope that they are laying the groundwork to develop expertise, platforms, and networks to diffuse their educational services and products throughout the world.


Amazon missed a huge opportunity to be a first mover in positioning the whole company as an education company. Why didn't Amazon prioritize education long enough ago that they could have done the work, and made the investments, to have an "education event" before Apple? By putting the first stake in the ground around education, Apple has set the standard, and everyone else will now be compared against Apple. 

Amazon should be better positioned than Apple to disrupt the education market. The Kindle Fire, at $200, is much more affordable for students than a $500 iPad. The Kindle Fire price should come down much faster than the iPad, as Amazon sells Kindle's as basic loss-leaders to drive content sales. Amazon can and will push Kindle Fire prices down below $100 in the next 24 months.  The Kindle Fire platform would work very well for textbooks, coursepacks, and other educational materials. 

Amazon should have been the first develop a Kindle e-book authoring app that is cross-platform and as powerful as the iBooks Author app.  Unlike Apple's education materials, Amazon's Kindle software can be used across devices, and would therefore enjoy a much bigger installed base with lower barriers to adoption.   Why didn't Amazon get serious about education sooner?


The new iTunesU allows lecture material to be complemented with files, images and apps - and to be organized around more of a course layout.   It is very important that we are clear on what iTunesU is not.  It is not a learning management system (LMS), or a tool that we can use to develop or deliver courses.   The platform is not tied into the student information system (SIS).   I did not see any assessment ability or gradebook.  And most importantly, iTunesU does not offer any collaboration or interaction tools.  

The new iTunesU will be a great platform to build and distribute open education courses, but I'd expect that this would be only one of the platforms that open education providers will distribute their courses.  (Requiring a $500 iPad as the price for admission to open learning being some antithetical to the whole idea of free educational resources).

What are your thoughts on Apple's Education Event?


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