Apple will today lift the lid on a hotly anticipated education announcement which many commentators think will revolutionise how students and educational publishers interact with each other.
Since invitations to the New York press conference went out earlier this month, speculation has focused on the development of an e-textbook store, based on the iTunes model, with leading education publishers expected to participate from launch despite the threat it would pose to their own existing print-based businesses. But other rumours have suggested that Apple could be about to launch a set of self-publishing tools aimed at academics, similar to its GarageBand application, which mimics a recording studio.
UK publishers were tight-lipped when approached to comment on the impending announcement this week, though it is understood that Apple held a series of meetings with education and academic publishers in central London last week.
In his biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson said Jobs regarded the textbook business as an $8bn a year industry ripe for digital destruction. "His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple."
According to Mike Fisher, convergence and new technologies consultant with Futuresource Consulting, all the signals are pointing the way to a future of PC and tablet-filled classrooms with content delivered over the cloud. "In the USA, by 2015 nearly one in four children in K-12 education will be using a school or district funded mobile computing device in the classroom, and that equates to annual sales volumes of over four million units."
"Similar to developments in the consumer space, a battleground is emerging in the education sector over who can develop and own the ecosystem," said Fisher. "This includes hardware, interactivity, storage, content, the learning platform and associated elements, and it's here within the fully-integrated offering where the war is likely to be won or lost."
Digital blog FutureBook
is hosting a live discussion on the implications of the announcement in conjunction with the internet radio Litopia, with participants including Alison Jones, director of digital development at Palgrave Macmillan; Sage's digital sales manager Huw Alexander; industry commentator Martyn Daniels, and the author M J Rose. The show will be broadcast from 8pm tonight, with a podcast to be made available soon after.