Educators mull Apple’s latest announcements

During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., earlier this week, Apple announced price reductions and new versions of its iPhone smart phone and MacBook Pro laptops, as well as an updated version of its Macintosh operating system–leading educators to ponder the significance of these announcements for schools.

On June 8, Apple unveiled its newest iPhones–the 16-gigabyte version of the 3G S for $199, and the 32-gigabyte version for $299–and reduced the cost of its 8-gigabyte 3G phone, which came out last year, to $99 instead of $199.

“The $99 price point for the iPhone could be interesting,” said Scott Testa, a technology expert who teaches marketing at St. Joseph’s University. He said that with the cheaper price tag for the entry-level iPhone, more universities might be inclined to use iPhones for educational purposes.

“Every $100 you move down in consumer electronics brings in a lot more customers,” said industry analyst Michael Gartenberg, with the market research firm Interpret. “Ninety-nine dollars is a psychological price point, so that’s a real barrier to move through. It becomes something people can afford–it becomes an affordable luxury.”

Apple’s newest iPhone could present more options for schools and universities. For instance, the newest iPhone operating software, available for downloading June 17, lets software developers sell additional content, such as electronic books, within applications.

Educators also might like some of the new iPhone’s other features, such as its ability for “tethering,” which means using the phone to connect to a computer through the internet. Twenty-two wireless carriers will enable tethering, and AT&T says it will have tethering some time in the future. The new iPhone software also will allow users to cut, copy, and paste text, and the new hardware will allow users to enter voice commands, which might be useful for learners with disabilities.

However, educators seem to be less thrilled about Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops and its newest operating system, called Snow Leopard.

For its MacBook line, Apple showed off new laptops that boast longer battery life and faster processors. The company rolled out a new 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,200, or $100 less than an existing similar model, and a 15-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,700, or $300 less than the current model.

For schools and universities, Testa doesn’t think this is a “dramatic change.”

As for Snow Leopard, it offers an improved version of QuickTime, an updated Safari web browser (Safari 4), a feature that integrates the dock with Expose to simplify switching between Windows, and it integrates Microsoft Exchange across key applications, which is designed to sway enterprise users from Windows.

Snow Leopard will launch in September–two months before Microsoft launches Windows 7–and the upgrade to Snow Leopard is $29.

“I don’t think it will change anything, because people don’t buy computers because of the operating system. They buy them for program functionality,” said Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose, Calif.

Testa agreed with Liebman, saying: “The improvements are not dramatic enough for enticing educators already using Windows to move to Macs, and the price is not enough for typical universities to change from one platform to the other.”

Although Apple lowered the price of many of its top-selling products on June8, one thing looming over the company is the growing popularity of cheaper, stripped-down laptops, often called “netbooks.”

Netbooks are one of the few segments of the overall PC business that has been growing in the recession, while Apple’s Mac revenues dropped 16 percent in the most recent quarter.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said Apple doesn’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer “that’s not a piece of junk.” That doesn’t mean Apple won’t someday try to enter that market, but on June 8, Philip Schiller, Apple’s top marketing executive, sounded similar themes, saying in one interview that netbooks are merely “very underpowered, poorly designed cheap notebooks.”

“They have poor keyboards, poor screens, and none of the features and capabilities to do what a MacBook, for example, can,” said Schiller. “We think those products are below the quality standards of something Apple would like to make.”

“Netbooks are the fastest growing segment of the PC market,” said Testa. “I believe Apple will launch a netbook eventually, [owing] to market forces and the advent of cloud computing.”

However, Liebman said it’s a little more complicated than simple marketing.

“I think that it depends on what you are doing with the netbooks. There is no doubt that they are less powerful and have fewer bells and whistles than a regular laptop or desktop.  I even agree with Apple’s comments about Macs, as their reputation is having computers that can do all kinds of advanced processes–including graphics, video, et cetera. A netbook, even from Apple, won’t do that, and it would be a subpar item for their product line,” Liebman explained.

But, he added, “if you are using them as thin clients or for word processing and don’t have a need for higher-level functions, [netbooks are] a great tool. In fact, we are playing with the option of using them in a virtualized environment … and making them available for kids to have at home for use with schoolwork.”


Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.