Apple’s education event has huge ramifications for the Windows 8 tablet

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I hate to admit it, but I was very impressed by the Apple’s education event today. Following along the event via the Verge.com live blog, it was clear that the guys from Cupertino have created a compelling set of products with iBooks 2, iBooks Author and a revamped iTunes U app that will indeed change the education landscape. Its not that these ideas are new, Apple has just found a way to offer them to the masses in a more user friendly format that millions of users will flock too. Apple, in one fell stroke has just outmaneuvered their rivals  by creating a new lucrative and integrated ecosystem in the learning field that neither Microsoft or Google posses a completive alternative. What’s more as is customary with Apple, the products are available now rather than a few months down the road giving them an enormous first mover advantage.

So how does this affect the Windows 8 tablet? Even with the success of the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft still dominates the education field whereby a majority of the PCs being Windows based in conjunction with Microsoft office products.This announcement turns the whole paradigm on its head. If more schools decide to adopt the new Apple system, why would any student need a PC when all their textbooks and school assignments are accessible via iPads? Furthermore, with a version Microsoft Office for the iPad in the works, its evident that the long running PC advantage finds itself on shaky ground. Imagine also a student getting their project done and presenting it to whole class wirelessly via airplay (via a compatible projector or simply an Apple TV connected to a regular projector. The possibilities are endless!

I have read a few tweets saying that the iPad would be a very expensive textbook (which is true), but if you think about it, its has added advantages beyond a textbook. It basically fulfills all the needs of an average student namely a textbook, a notebook, computer, multimedia and communication device and with the iCloud integration, no PC/Mac needed. Students with heavier duty content creation needs would still have a desktop or laptop for things such as video editing or programming but that could easily change if the next version of the iPad comes fitted with a quad-core processor.  As for limited storage in the case of 8 or even the 16 GB iPads, the iCloud sync takes care of that so that the users can swap out content on the fly since most school have great Wi-fi connections.

Three negatives I see with the adoption of iPads in schools would be the increased crime and violence due to thefts of the expensive device. Secondly, Apple will have to find a way to make the gadgets more durable because students don’t have the best track records in taking care of their devices. Drop a textbook and all you have to do is pick it up. Drop an iPad and you are $500 poorer! Thirdly, since the iPad doubles as a media device, YouTube, Facebook and twitter just a tap away, students will be easily distracted from doing their school work. Apple will need to come up with some kind of parental and administrative controls that will lock what kinds of apps are accessible at various times of the day to minimize such an event.

I am highlighting the impending danger that Microsoft and its allies face in the coming months in regards to tablets. If the Redmond giant hasn’t done so already, they need to have an answer for iBooks, iBooks Author and iTunes U and if possible, have the systems ready to go way before the Windows 8 launch in the fall. Apple is already ahead signing up exclusive deals and building up a database of compelling content for the education market, Microsoft cannot afford to be left behind!

However, all is not lost for the Windows 8 tablet. Due Apple’s aversion to the stylus, Microsoft has a great opening to provide a compelling feature set in this area in combination with OneNote. With the current iBook and in general iOS, highlighting of text or items is done by the finger which I contend feels unnatural and a stylus would be better. (There are 3rd party stylus products however). Microsoft has invested in pen and ink and handwriting technology for years and they need to capitalize on it by integrating into education offering. Imagine not only being able to highlight the text, but also annotate and even add sketches right on the textbook! All your data will be searchable and linked to the specific page on the textbook. Furthermore these notes will be synched to the cloud for easy access anywhere. If you remember the Courier, Microsoft should combine the Courier ideas and OneNote, to create a killer app for the Windows 8 tablet. Apple does not have an integrated native note taking and journaling app that I know of.

OneNote also provides searchable voice note capabilities. The last piece of the puzzle will be video conferencing. Microsoft has in its possession the two largest video chat products in terms of active users  via Skype and Windows Live Messenger. Add Kinect to the mix and a and viable cheap distance learning product comes to life.

Apple has once again unleashed another assault on what used to be a traditional Microsoft’s domain, if they succeed, the era of the PC (With Microsoft dominating) will indeed be over. Kids will grow up using iPads (if they become standard issue in schools) which in turn will lead them to using Macs and eventually demand Apple products in their workplaces as some do now.

The Apple education initiative has the potential to rock Microsoft’s world if they don’t respond in kind. MS should not wait and be in the position a year or two from know wondering how Apple took over the education market from them. They have most of the pieces in place. They just need to polish them to create a simple and cohesive product for end users like Apple has done. I strongly believe this has to tackled now by the time Windows 8 launches.  By this I mean, a Textbook store akin to iBooks 2 with an easy way for educators to interact with their students,  a Textbook authoring tool akin to the iBooks Author and a great place for educational content akin to the iTunes U.

What do you guys think?

Image credit verge.com