Education Sales Brawl 101 (5/2/01)

While the iBook is designated as Apple's "consumer portable," the company clearly had another market firmly in mind during yesterday's product intro: education. Yup, Apple is taking its grudge match with Dell to the next level; stung by being smacked into second place by one of the beigest-thinking boxmakers on the planet, Steve devoted a good chunk of the long-awaited "press event" to playing up just how perfect the new iBook is for use in and out of the classroom. Just take a gander at Apple's touchy-feely iBook video for an example of the company's not-so-subtle message: "Hey, school districts. Buy these. Please?"

Not that any school district with half a brain in charge should need much coaxing, seeing as the new iBooks represent a stellar value-- the entry-level model is a mere $1199 to educational purchasers. Still, based on some of the boneheaded decisions we've seen the education bureaucracy squeeze out over the years, Apple's probably right to go for the throat. A New York Times article kindly pointed out by faithful viewer Tom Fort (in which The Mighty Steve is pictured demonstrating his astounding powers of levitation) reports on this latest chapter in the ongoing Apple-Dell fracas. While Steve states that he's "refusing to enter a war of words" with Mike Dell (who has publicly blasted Apple as irrelevant on a number of recent occasions), he's certainly not shy about sticking an iBook next to one of Dell's "bulkier" consumer notebooks and letting the products speak for themselves.

On top of school-targeted marketingspeak, better features, and special educational pricing, Apple is also "promoting a cart system in which dozens of portable computers can be carried from classroom to classroom as needed." You just have to love AirPort; heck, instead of using the school's computers, kids could even bring their own iBooks from home and glom happily onto the school's wireless network. There's a world of possibilities out there. If Apple really spends time and money to get the word out about how it's much more satisfactory to bring the computers to the kids instead of bringing the kids to the computers, then maybe it can regain its education crown sooner rather than later.

Undoubtedly, Apple's off to a good start; according to a company press release, Henrico Country in Virginia has already placed an order for 23,000 new iBooks for use in its public schools-- the "largest portable computer sale to education ever." (According to The PowerBook Zone, that's nearly half of the total number of iBooks sold all last quarter. Yikes!) That means that "every middle and high school student and teacher" in Henrico County will have access to an iBook, and the plan is to extend that into the lower grades eventually as well. Now, obviously Henrico County's getting some kind of special deal, but even if their cost on these units is a mere $1000 each, that's $23 million in revenue for Apple right there.

The real question, however, is this: how long will it be before Mike Dell snaps out of his tantrum and releases a new iBook clone to protect his "tops in education sales" reputation?

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The above scene was taken from the 5/2/01 episode:

May 2, 2001: The new iBook is here, and it looks hauntingly familiar somehow. Meanwhile, Apple smacks Dell upside the head with an education order for 23,000 iBooks, and Mac OS X 10.0.2 is here for those of you itching to burn...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3027: The TiBook Starter Kit (5/2/01)   Needless to say, drama fiends who hoped for some sort of bombshell announcement that would shake us to the very cores of our beings are probably just a smidge disappointed. Apple has neither bought Handspring nor been bought by Sony...

  • 3029: Incremental Improvement (5/2/01)   Other than the nifty new iBook, the only other real announcement at yesterday's press event was relatively minor, but important nonetheless: Mac OS X 10.0.2 is now available, and this latest update adds the long-awaited CD-R/RW compatibility that we've all been waiting for...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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