John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

My Kid’s an Honor Student at iPad University: Apple on the Rebound in Edu

In the ’80s, Apple’s share of the U.S. education market stood at 50 percent. These days, it hovers around 20 percent, thanks largely to falling PC prices and the advent of the netbook. But that’s changing, and quickly too (see chart below; click to enlarge).

With Apple (AAPL) inking multiyear Mac contracts with a number of school districts, it’s growth in edu is on the rebound. And now, with the iPad and its promise of hand-held education just a few weeks from market, Apple could be poised to see significant growth in higher ed.

Obviously, it’s impossible to predict whether the iPad will be the digital device to transform the classroom, but some analysts are enthusiastic about the possibility. Among them: Needham & Company’s Charlie Wolf. Reflecting on Apple’s performance in the U.S education market in a note to clients this morning, he suggests there may be big things ahead for the company.

“The soon-to-be-introduced iPad has the potential to change the buying dynamics in both the secondary and higher education markets,” Wolf writes. “At $500 before typical education discounts, the iPad is price competitive with all the PCs schools now purchase.”

That’s not all. Wolf continues: “And the device has the potential to go much further if, as it appears certain, education content is customized for the iPad to exploit its unique multimedia capabilities. It is not difficult to imagine classrooms where the iPad takes center stage, capturing a significant percentage of the school market in the process.”

Not difficult to imagine at all, though it may take some time to get there. As my colleague, Peter Kafka, reminds me, the iPad-as-textbook is likely quite a way off given that it requires buy-in from educational publishers, not to mention school boards and academia. Beyond that, there’s the need for applications that really take advantage of the portability and breadth of use that the iPad offers and to position it as a true an educational tool.

“To be successful in the secondary ed market, the iPad will need content and application developers to write applications that exploit the unique form factor and features of the iPad–content and apps that materially improve the ‘educational experience’ in the classroom,” Wolf told me in a brief email interview this morning. 

“If that doesn’t happen,” Wolf added, the iPad could enjoy some success. But it would be far less than that which would occur if the iPad becomes a unique educational tool.”

Wolf believes higher ed will be easier, though. “Again it will depend on content developers–the publishers–exploiting the dynamic features of the device to enhance the educational experience,” he said. ”Simply formatting text books for the iPad will be OK, but it would eliminate any chance of a hockey stick of adoption.”

[Image credits: Needham & Company, Adam Tow]


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