Why the Beats / Apple Deal Depresses Me

Imagine a focus on education.

May 11, 2014

Why should the reported impending $3.2 billion purchase of Beats Electronics by Apple depress me?  

If Apple, a company with a market cap of over $500 billion (the largest in the world) and over $40 billion in cash, wants to spend a few billion on a hot consumer electronics brand why should I care?

Apple can afford to buy Beats, and who knows what new cool headphones or more robust competition for Spotify might emerge from the deal.

I think what depresses me about the purchases Beats is that I keep fantasizing that Apple’s next big acquisition would be in the edtech sector.  That rather than focusing on music or games or even fitness tracking, that Apple would focus on education.

Think how much $3 billion could do in edtech.

Think about how much the edtech sector would benefit from the design expertise of an Apple.

For instance, how much would it cost Apple to purchase the (privately held) Crestron electronics?  According to Wikipedia, Crestron’s estimated revenue (in 2011) was $500 million. Do you use Crestron to control your classroom A/V on your campus?   How much would a Crestron benefit from the Apple design experise?

When it comes to edtech I often hear concerns that Apple would be a poor fit to purchase - as Apple is all about a closed ecosystem. The thinking is that since Apple ties its hardware and software so tightly together that it makes little sense to hope for a large Apple presence in edtech.  Not every student will own an iOS device.   We need tech that is open and flexible, applications that are platform agnostic.

This seems like a reasonable worry.   

What we should keep in mind, however, is that Apple does have some history of cross-platform success. Large numbers of Windows computer owners still sync their iPhones and buy music with iTunes. (I tried to find the numbers for iTunes/iPhone Windows users compared to Mac users through Google - but failed. Can you help?).

If Apple ever decided that education was as strategic as entertainment then it would be important to move beyond an iOS / OSX lock-in. The fact that the private iTunes U courses app does not have a robust Web equivalent or Android version has limited the potential of this platform.

This concern, however, should not stop Apple from a hard push into the education space. Nor should our worries about what an Apple focus on edtech would mean for openness and flexibility stop us from trying to push Apple to play a larger role in education.  

The fact is that Apple could provided a much needed boost in the edtech world. The edtech industry, despite large investments and lots of excitement, remains fragmented and underdeveloped. The promise of mobile learning and educational media platforms to transform teaching and learning has been largely unrealized.  Apple has the wealth, size, talent, and reach to make large and long-term investments in the edtech sector.   

How do you think that Apple thinks about education?


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