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The Week Ahead: Apple may return to education roots

By Tom Hudson, McClatchy Newspapers –

Years before today’s i-mania of Apple, the company relied on its education business to stay alive. On Thursday, Apple is expected to take on the textbook business, hoping to repeat its treatment of the music, smartphone and tablet markets: redefine the experience, parse the costs and generate huge profits.

Back when Apple still included “Computer” in its official corporate name, schools were its buyers. Steve Jobs returned as Apple CEO in 1997. In that year’s final financial report Apple described its customers as “primarily in the education, creative, home, business and government markets.” Education ranked first.  While Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and IBM were the serious computing machines, Apple built computers for kids.

In less than two years since the iPad’s introduction, almost 40 million were sold.  The iPad explosion is changing how we consume all kinds of media, so why not textbooks?  The tablet is replacing the newspaper at breakfast, a book over lunch and the television at night.

The education market is as fragmented as they come.  There are federal policies, state certifications and local control.  Will textbook committees endorse an electronic physics book so students can experience Newton’s laws in a way no static diagram could ever hope to replicate?  Expect Apple to make it economically easy for school districts with tight budgets to enter the age of i-education.

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