Last month, Apple unveiled its latest device to the world, the iPad. Apple is touting the "educational benefits" of the $499 device, but the real question is, will students respond with the same verve as they have with other Apple products in the past? Already a small Pennsylvania college, Seton Hill, announced that it will provide iPads to all of their full-time students next fall. With an enrollment of just over 2,000 students it's a start for the Apple machine, albeit it's not and Ohio State or Univ of Minnesota with 40,000 and 50,000 undergrads.
Clearly Apple has the education market in mind with the iPad as partnerships have also been trickling out with leading textbook publishers including Macmillan and McGraw Hill, among others. The basic concept is that students, as tech savvy as they are, will be more comfortable and adept in consuming their academic material via a multi-touch interactive e-reader device like the iPad as opposed to a more cumbersome (and heavy) 500 page textbook.
Besides the interactive e-reader capabilities, the iPad is really nothing more than oversized version of the already wildly popular iTouch. So, in other words, beyond the supposed convenience of an e-reader device, and a fairly pricey one at that, do students really desire having one more device that already offers many of the same features and functionality they're well accustomed to? The initial vote from our college student panelists is a resounding nay.
As much buzz as the broader e-reader market is receiving, when it comes to the actual end user level of students, awareness, let alone interest is quite weak. And, as can be expected, when you throw in a price tag of $499 (plus data plan costs) interest and intent among students drops even further.
Based on this initial feedback, the strategy to drive immediate adoption would be an institutional type sales approach where Apple would sell iPads in bulk to specific colleges and universities. We suspect the schools would then have to pass along the costs through various student access and tech fees. That said, other than the super tech schools like MIT and Stanford, it's pretty unlikely to see major state-funded institutions sign on quickly (fall 2010) as many are still very much struggling with budget and capital expenditure problems of their own. Chances are, the last thing they want to do is add on one more fee for their students.