What’s Next, Apple?

Categories: Gadgetry, News
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Published on: March 6, 2012

It’s official: Apple’s white MacBook is no longer available for education. While many of my colleagues are upset because it was the last product with a real education discount behind it, I’m more curious about what’s coming next.

Remember the eMac? It’s about the time it died that we started seeing a 17″ iMac for education only, and not long after it died we had education pricing for MacBooks.

Translate that to a different pattern: desktops in static computer labs, then mobile lab carts and 1:1 initiatives. Sure, we had lab sets of iPod touches, but what’s Apple really pushing now? Tablets, baby. The iPad.

Apple has never made arbitrary decisions. There’s a long-term plan here, and we’re starting to see hints of what’s to come.

Consider the death of the Xserve. With the cloud—whether we’re talking Apple’s iCloud, Google Apps, MS Office Live, or services like Dropbox and Evernote—being touted as the place to store user data and consolidate it across devices, we may not need beefy servers much longer. It doesn’t take a lot of juice to run basic services like DHCP, DNS, and profile management. Apple appears to be telling us a Mac Mini running OS X Server will have all the juice most of us will need in the near future, and for everyone else there are the Mac Pro systems.

Consider the consolidation of tablet and desktop features: scrolling has been changed in Lion to mirror swiping on tablets, there are a whole slew of new touch manipulation features, and we have an App Store for laptops/desktops now. Tablets are taking off faster than most other technologies, whether we’re talking iPad, Kindle, Nook, or the various Android tablets. Tech-savvy users are supplementing their main machines with tablets, and non-techies are using them as simple email, web and entertainment devices. Even Microsoft has taken note of this, or they wouldn’t be redesigning Windows 8 on the desktop in a similar manner.

Consider the education event in January, including the announcements of textbooks in the iTunes Store (at $15 no less), iBooks 2 and iBook Author, and the new features of iTunes U and its expansion into the K-12 market. All new and exciting reasons for schools to take another look at the iPad.

This suggests to me there’s something big coming, and Apple is going to start pushing 1:1 programs from MacBooks to iPads.

To date, it’s actually the education market that’s been clamoring for iPads, not Apple “shoving them down our throats” as some claim. I think Apple is going to start making iPads a lot more attractive to schools who have been dismissing them due to the cost. It may be a smaller and/or cheaper iPad, it may be iPad 2s blown out at education pricing like the white MacBook. It might be expanded management tools, or some hot feature like a Siri tailored to education (including for enhanced text input).

Will we see this next big thing at tomorrow’s big Apple event? Hard to say, but I think there’s going to be something to make them more attractive in terms of pricing or value (or both) in the near future.

Mourn the white MacBook if you will, but keep looking forward.

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