What Will Come, What I Wish Would Come, and What's a Total Crapshoot at the Apple EDU Event March 27
Apple is getting their clocked cleaned in ed, and they are finally about to do something about it. In the past 3 to 4 years the rise of Google Chrome and Chromebooks has done a number on the education market for Apple. They are hoping an event on March 27 will start the shift back. This post is all about what I expect from the event, but I think it's valuable to also talk about my unlikely wishes. I still truly believe Apple makes the best hardware, but they have a long way to go in ed.
What We Will See
1. New Ipads
I think this is almost definite. Apple sees the iPad as a computer and as something that can be a great digital device for students. It has an advantage of having a load of creative apps for students to build projects in, but Apple has struggled with some of the pain points it brings. Unfortunately, I don't think you will see answers to all those points
I think you will see two significant improvements to the iPad line geared at schools. To start, the price will drop. I think you will see devices in the $250 range. They have to compete with the low cost of Chromebooks, and that's where they will start. They can justify it at that price point as schools are looking for touchscreen devices, and even the Chromebook version hovers in that price range.
The other thing I think for sure is coming is the addition of the attachable keyboard that is on the pros. Apple knows that keyboards are becoming an incredibly important part of state testing, and they know that a keyboard on the lower cost IPads is an easy addition to improve the chance schools will purchase.
I think you might see some type of Apple Pencil, but you might not. No school is going to be willing to pay for a $100 stylus, and the only way it even comes close to a possibility is if they downgrade the pencil a bunch. There is a load of options in the classroom for a stylus type device, but the chance of it being lost is very real. I am always so scared I will lose mine
2. An IOS version of iBooks Author
Many years ago, Apple held an education event that predominantly focused on two things: the iBooks Author and iTunes U. I think we will almost certainly get at least an update for the iBooks Author, and I have a feeling an iTunes U update may come to.
The whole principle behind the iBooks Author is that people can write and create a book. The issue with it though is that it's only on Mac, and the number of schools that have Macs is limited. By bringing it to IOS Apple just hits a much wider range of people, and they can put creation in the hands of the kids.
3. An Apple version of Google Classroom
In some ways, Apple already has this with iTunes U, but the problem with it is that it struggles on non-IOS devices. It's not truly device agnostic like classroom is, and I would think Apple realizes that needs to change. In the process, I would hope that they also simplify the entry point to it.
In many ways, Classroom is a brilliant way to lock classrooms into the Google way of doing things. Every Classroom needs somewhere to have a digital hub, and the ease of Google Classroom makes it a great solution for so many. That ease opens classrooms up to the rest of the Google suite. Apple sees that, and they want a part of it. That reasoning is what makes me think they will do an updated version of iTunes U to turn into a rival
4. Updated to Apple Classroom
This is the feature that brought multiuser support to the IPad. It also allows you as the teacher to do things like lock devices and open apps, and I think it's almost a guarantee you will see updates. The issue is it still won't be easy device management at the district level which means in the grand scheme of things this update will be minor
5. Something around coding
If you have followed Apple Edu recently, you know that Swift and CS curriculum in schools is a major focus. It's safe to say that will continue because they need to build up future Apple employees. I am almost positive Apple will do something in coding, I just don't know what. I have always thought Apple simplifying the app creation process would be cool. Maybe we will see it on the 25th.
What I Wish We Would See
1. An awesome email app
One of the reasons Google and Microsoft have so many inroads in schools is that they offer what amounts to a private email service that district ITs can adopt as the districts email provider. District ITS adopt it, and then the district progresses to the other services. I have almost concluded that email service is 75% of Microsoft's ability to make inroads in K12. People like Outlook. It's time Apple got in the game, but they won't. It's just not their style.
2. An Airwatch clone with an Apple Spin
What's one of the most significant advantages Chromebooks have over IPads? It's a fact they are EASY to manage, and Apple desperately needs to do something about it on iPad. iPads are currently either managed through something like Apple configurator that requires someone to plug in the IPad to manage or through something like AirWatch which does it wirelessly. If Apple can simplify that process, it would go a long way to iPad adoption.
Copying another companies tool and improving on it is such an Apple thing to do, so why not do it here? Apple needs to build a wireless high capacity device management system that anyone with just a little bit of tech savvy can do. They can simplify it, and make it just work better. I think that is what EVERYONE wants, but Apple won't do it. It would take ot many engineers to do.
3. An updated version of IWork
Where does Apple not even come close to competing with Google and Microsoft? It's easily IWork, and the likelihood of them ever competing is probably small. It would benefit us all if they would though. More options are always better.
The issue with Office suites is that its very difficult to get a user to move off of what they have known and used for a long time. It has to have killer features even to make it a conversation, and the ease of the cloud environment Google structured around their Office suite was their reason. For Apple, to even compete in the space they need to rebuild iCloud completely, and they need to give schools a full administration setup as we have in GSuite. They also need to find that killer feature that moves Pages, Keynote, and Numbers past the competitors. I don’t know that Apple has that in them.
4. Easy Augmented Reality Creation
Apple has something big on their hands with AR kit, and AR has loads of potential in the education space. Currently, there are some useful apps that you can take and use for a couple of singular purposes (ex. AR organs), but many of the AR creation apps are still lacking. They can be tough to get markers working, and how deep you can go with them is limited. If Apple could drop an AR creation app that’s as easy to use as iMovie, they would completely dominate the space. The problem is that Clips is the only new Apple Creation app in many years, so it makes this unlikely.
What's a Total Crapshoot
1. New MacBook Airs
This one is something that may not be as important for public schools, but it is undoubtedly vital for Apple’s University business. Apple needs to have a laptop under $800, so they can continue to be the laptop of college students. If they don’t do something to meet that price point, they will continue to lose market share. Things are moving to the cloud at a rapid pace, and with that devices centered around the browser become more and more viable. If they release a lower cost version they can get the college laptop market, and they might just sell a few to schools while they are at it.
If you read the reports out there, you have to consider the likelihood of this somewhere around 50%. It just seems that Apple doesn’t have a plan for laptops. Several years ago they released the MacBook, but they still kept the Air on the market. People still bought the Air, so it hung around. Then they released the new Pro’s which some loved and some hated, and the price point took many out of it. It’s just hard to tell what they will do in this market.
If I had to guess, I am guessing no. I think the issue will be is that to make these work in schools, Apple would have to keep USB-A ports. They also know if they do, they will HEAR about their current laptop lines that lack that port. To me, that means an Ed version of the Air is probably a no, but then again it might not be.