Now, in the era of smartphones and tablets, the company is renewing its drive to capture the lucrative education market by revolutionizing the textbook industry and getting more iPads into classrooms — all at a hefty profit.
As the company prepares a major announcement with educators and publishers Thursday, Apple is aggressively pushing a strategy that would secure its dominance among a variety of schools, from New York City’s public system to Stanford University.
While outfoxing rivals such as Microsoft and Texas Instruments, the move has the potential to lock public money into Apple’s tightly knit universe of products, analysts say. Arlington County alone is committing hundreds of thousands of dollars to integrate the firm’s gadgets into its curriculum.
Since it launched the iPad in 2010, Apple has flown teachers to its Cupertino, Calif., campus to play around with the device and learn about a classroom in Escondito, Calif., that uses the iPod Touch to help students do their homework and uses the iPad for teachers to organize and deliver their lessons.
At an event on Thursday at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Apple is expected to announce new partnerships that will bring digital textbooks to students — a $10 billion industry that has been slow to embrace changes sweeping other media.
“Apple has a history of thinking that if you catch kids in school, they are more likely to be excited about your products later in life,” said Carl Howe, the director of consumer research at Yankee Group.
That didn’t escape lawmakers who, along with Apple, had proposed tax breaks to bring computers into schools in 1982.
“I think that it is an outstandingly good marketing tool,” Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said at the time during the hearing at which Jobs testified. ”Every child will grow up seeing that logo in front of him. Steve was very upfront about that.”
Arlington County’s public school district has several “iPad pilot projects,” including one this year where fourth-grade students at Drew Model School are each given an iPad for their social studies class, funded by $20,000 from the state.
Apple, textbook publisher Five Ponds Press and the school created a social studies app about colonial Jamestown, Va., that included text from books usually taught in the class as well as video about the history of the area.
Arlington’s school district hasn’t studied whether the technology has led to higher achievement, but they say students have expressed more excitement about their course work.
The county is now committing $400,000 to more iPad projects that will transfer all assessment tests for its elementary and middle school students onto iPads this fall. The goal is to have one iPad for every 10 students, said Pat Teske, the supervisor for instructional and innovative technologies for the district.