Hoping to revive slumping sales to the education market—traditionally a cornerstone of the company’s business—Apple Computer has announced a new leadership position dedicated solely to education. The move indicates a renewed focus on schools, the company said.

Cheryl Vedoe, a former vice president of Apple’s education division, has rejoined the company in the newly created position of vice president of Education Marketing and Solutions, reporting directly to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.

Most recently, Vedoe was CEO of Post Communications, a venture capital-backed startup providing eMail marketing technology and services. Prior to that, she was a founder and CEO of Tenth Planet, a developer of innovative curricular software for elementary classrooms.

Previously, Vedoe gained extensive experience in the education market as vice president of Apple’s Education Division. She also has held a variety of engineering and marketing management positions at Sun Microsystems, Apollo Computer, and Digital Equipment.

Education a ‘top priority’

“The education market is a top priority for Apple, and we intend to regain market share beginning in 2001,” said Jobs, in announcing Vedoe’s appointment. “With her extensive experience in education and technology, Cheryl is a strong addition to Apple’s education team.”

“I am delighted to once again be part of Apple’s education efforts,” said Vedoe in a statement. “There is enormous untapped potential for technology to enhance learning in our schools, and Apple is on the forefront of providing the innovative solutions that meet the needs of students, teachers, administrators, and parents.”

In an interview with eSchool News, Vedoe said her new position indicates a renewed dedication to Apple’s education division going forward. “Very simply, the fact that my position was created is an indication that Apple is serious about education,” she said.

Signs that Apple was losing market share in education began to surface in 1999, when rival Dell Computer cited figures from the Gartner Group market research firm Dataquest indicating it had surpassed Apple as the No. 1 supplier of computers to schools—despite the iMac’s popularity.

On Sept. 29, Apple’s stock fell by more than half its value when the company warned its fourth-quarter 2000 earnings would be substantially below expectations. Sluggish education sales during the back-to-school month of September—when Apple’s computer sales traditionally peak—were a key factor, according to a company statement.

Apple also rankled some educators when it shelved its 20-year program of grants and donations to schools in 1999 “in order to help the company maintain long-term profitability”—a decision that came just two months after the company announced its first profitable year since 1995.

New solutions

With Vedoe’s hiring and a suite of new products unveiled at the Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando Jan. 11, Apple hoped to regain its shine and jumpstart its education sales.

At FETC, Apple announced that its iTools product has been adapted for educational use. iTools for Education includes free eMail; the iDisk technology, which allows for server-based storage of up to 400 megabytes of space; and a new Homepage feature.

“Homepage allows teachers to create their own home pages very easily. They can put iMovie clips on the pages, graphics—anything they want, really. And, it’s easy to use,” said Vedoe.

The company also unveiled another new tool for education at FETC, called EdView.

“EdView is a free service for educators located on the Apple web site. It gives teachers the ability to go in and search a set of Apple-approved educational web sites,” Vedoe said. “We’ve even had teachers go in and write the descriptions of each site and redefine all the keywords. That way, when an educator is looking for something very specific, he or she can find it easily.”

Finally, Apple demonstrated its newest addition to wireless classroom computing for FETC conference-goers. The mobile wireless classroom solution comes with a cart that can be moved around the school, a teacher workstation complete with software, iBook laptop computers for students and the teacher, and a printer.

According to Vedoe, the cart is equipped with an AirPort wireless access point that sends internet access to the iBooks remotely within a certain range. The mobile computing carts are available in computer 10-packs for $19,999 and packs of 15 iBooks for $28,599.

“We want to make sure we’re supporting the development of all the skills that kids need with our educational offerings,” said Vedoe.

Links:

Apple Computer http://www.apple.com