Apple's Tablet-Based Education Strategy Half-Baked: 10 Reasons Why

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's education strategy is starting to look like it might have serious gaps that could prevent the company from taking the leadership role that matches its apparent market ambitions.

Apple took the stage at its New York City education event on Jan. 19 to show off several new products and services, including iBooks 2, iBooks Authors and a totally refreshed iTunes U.

As expected, the company said that its plans could very well transform how young people are educated in the United States and spent much of its time trying to sell parents and educators on the idea.

But as nice as the idea to improve education sounds, there are several major flaws in Apple's strategy. The company has yet to say how it will attract public school systems that haven't adopted iPads and doesn't quite acknowledge the fact that there are already several higher education portals designed to do what iTunes U does. Interactive textbooks are great, but they can only go so far in appealing to the stakeholders that will be using them.

Simply put, Apple might not have enough technology and services to make its education push as strong as it could be. This could prove to be a real problem as it goes to market in the months ahead.

Read on to find out about some of the major issues affecting Apple's education strategy:

1. The branding seems off

Apple has made the odd decision to stick with "iBooks" and "iTunes U" to market its new education services. Its textbook offering now goes under the heading of "iBooks 2 for iPad," while iTunes U has been revamped as an education portal. Such branding might confuse consumers and ultimately hurt adoption of both services. Apple would have been smart to change both services' names to something distinct.

2. How do we get iPads to students?

Making digital textbooks more available to students through the use of tablets is a fine idea. But Apple still hasn't solved the problem of actually getting those slates in the hands of kids. Around the country today many families can't afford iPads. What's worse, if schools require them for digital textbooks, those kids will be left behind. Getting the hardware to the students is the first step in making iBooks 2 work, and Apple doesn't seem to have adequately addressed that problem yet.

3. The public education system doesn't require paying for textbooks

One of the hardest sells in Apple's education strategy is forcing kids, kindergarten through grade 12, to pay for their textbooks. Currently, the vast majority of public school systems across the United States provide textbooks to kids free of charge. Unfortunately, in some areas, kids are forced to share books because the public schools can't afford enough of them. Apple is ostensibly asking them to now pay for textbooks when they have heretofore not been required to do so. It's an odd requirement that won't please parents at all.

4. Colleges already have education portals

There's nothing wrong withApple trying to roll out a new education portal in iTunes U, but the company should realize that there are several other services out there that colleges and universities have invested cash in. BlackBoard is arguably one of the top education portals in the higher-education arena, and for many schools, switching away from that just might not be financially feasible in the coming years.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...