Apple Computer Inc. appears to be regaining its foothold as the most purchased computer in the K-12 education market, according to a survey by an education market research firm.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker has been fighting to boost its K-12 education sales since it lost its market share lead to Dell Computer Corp. more than a year ago.

For the upcoming school year, schools will purchase 311,896 to 447,994 Macs compared with 203,808 to 270,500 Dell systems and 118,427 to 215,705 Compaq Computer Corp. units, according to a recent survey of 421 school districts conducted by Quality Education Data (QED).

The forecast puts Apple back ahead of Dell–27 percent to 15 percent–in terms of expected unit sales. For the past two years, Denver-based QED said the survey tilted in Dell’s favor.

Dell disputed the accuracy of the latest QED survey, saying it doesn’t match other industry research.

International Data Corp. (IDC), for instance, has shown Dell as No. 1 in the units-shipped position since the last calendar quarter of 1999. Dell’s market share climbed to 34 percent as Apple’s share dropped to 22 percent in the first quarter of 2001.

“We believe we’re well-positioned to retain our leadership position in the U.S., and we don’t expect that to change,” Dell spokesman Dean Kline said.

IDC senior analyst David Daoud said his company does not issue forecasts but said preliminary data indicate Apple has picked up more sales recently with the release of its new iBook laptop computer. But, he added, “Dell is a very strong player, and it will be very difficult to dislodge it from the No. 1 spot.”

Apple acknowledged a slip in sales that contributed to a staggering net loss in the quarter that ended in December–its first non-profitable quarter in three years–and has since pledged to once again become the education leader.

“Education is in our DNA,” Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has said publicly several times.

Hoping to revive its slumping education sales, Apple last fall rehired Cheryl Vedoe, a former vice president of Apple’s education division, to the newly created position of vice president of education marketing and solutions, reporting directly to Jobs.

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

In March, Apple demonstrated its rededication to education by acquiring privately held PowerSchool Inc., a leading provider of web-based student information systems (SIS) for the K-12 market, for $62 million.

“Apple has a legacy of helping teachers teach and students learn. We are now expanding that mission to include helping schools run more effectively,” Jobs said in a company statement.

In May, Jobs announced that Virginia’s Henrico County Public Schools had purchased 23,000 iBooks, “the single largest sale of portable computers in education ever.”

And in June, Jobs further avowed his company’s dedication to the education maket as he addressed more than 13,000 educators at the National Education Computing Conference in Chicago.

Jim McVety, an analyst at Eduventures.com, said the latest figures from QED show Apple is recommitted to education despite the fact that it has lost ground to competitors.

Apple “lost [its] focus after a while. With such a large market share for so many years, it was easy to lose focus,” McVety said.

“Apple has recognized the need to address schools at the administration level, and you see that with the [company’s] acquisition of PowerSchool,” McVety said. Administrators often push the technology they’re comfortable with down to the school level, he said.

“I think we will see a greater number of marriages between hardware and software [providers],” McVety said. Apple’s acquisition of PowerSchool “was the most high profile and among the first … of that nature.”

Links:

Apple Computer
http://www.apple.com

Quality Education Data
http://www.qeddata.com

Dell Computer
http://www.dell.com