Education Event Speculation

As you may have heard, late last week, Apple announced an education-themed event to be held in Chicago on March 27. The last Apple event like this was in 2012, in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U for iOS. This time around, the event is being held at Lane Tech College Prep High School.

At first glance, this feels like it’s going to be a relatively small event — as in, no hardware releases — but I’m not so sure. This will likely be Apple’s only opportunity to unveil products on stage before WWDC in June and many of the usual suspects received invitations. If Apple had anything slated for the beginning of the year, this is the time to announce it. And of course, many school districts begin planning the following school year’s budget in the spring. If Apple wants to compete with inexpensive Chromebooks, they’ll have announce products before WWDC.

The most obvious potential product announcement is an upgrade to the current iPad at an even lower starting price. DigiTimes first floated the idea last December, as reported by MacRumors, which was corroborated earlier this month by Taiwan’s Economic Daily News. There isn’t much in the way of details about what exactly this new iPad would feature, but DigiTimes’ sources believed that Apple was targeting a $259 price point.

This will likely be a minor upgrade from the existing iPad — probably an A10 Fusion processor and some improvements to the camera system, but not much else. The story will be all about what you get for your money — powerful computational abilities, a great display, built-in cameras for augmented reality, and an immense software catalog.

But the iPad isn’t the only possible hardware announcement for this event. Earlier this month, KGI Securities issued a report to investors claiming that Apple has a new MacBook in the works that is poised to replace the existing MacBook Air. Like the rumored iPad, details on the new MacBook are sparse. There doesn’t even seem to be any consensus as to whether the new machine will be given the “Air” moniker — KGI refers to it as “MacBook Air” while DigiTimes has simply called it “MacBook”.

What these reports do indicate, however, is that Apple is planning to position the new model at a price point lower than the current MacBook Air — maybe $800-900. Introducing new, inexpensive MacBooks and iPads would be a good one-two-punch from Apple, helping to bolster their offerings in the education market.

There will certainly be software discussed at the event. iOS 11.3 should be launching soon and could make an appearance on stage, but it brings very few new features to the platform. iBooks has been renamed “Books”, iMessages sync over iCloud, and the introduction of AirPlay 2 are the biggest new features, but that won’t fill much time on stage.

iOS 11.3, a new iPad, and MacBook Air aren’t enough to justify an Apple event. I get the feeling Apple has something else up its sleeve. And it’s probably something big that would be particularly intriguing to education customers.

I haven’t been able to fully formulate this thought, though. What could Apple be up to in this regard? Something to do with Swift Playgrounds and teaching software development? Maybe there will be a new mechanism for sharing apps between classmates. Or a massive upgrade to Numbers, Pages, and Keynote. I have a lot of ideas of what it could be, but none of them stand out above the rest.

Whatever the case, Apple has clearly been working on something. And I’m excited to see what that might be. If you have any ideas for what Apple might have in store next week, let me know, I’d love to hear from you.