What to Expect From Apple’s Chicago Education Event | News & Opinion

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Apple is holding a launch event on Tuesday, March 27 in an unusual place: Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. (Those are Lane Tech kids pictured above, in a photo from Apple.) Why? Back in December, Apple announced that it was working with the city of Chicago to bring Swift coding classes to 500,000 local students, and the company most probably wants to show off products for schools.

Chromebooks have been killing Macs and iPads in school installations over the past two years, according to data from Futuresource. We think Apple will fight back with a low-cost iPad aimed at the education market, replacing the current smash-hit $329 base model.

Apple also hasn’t updated the iPad mini since 2015, leaving it ripe for a change. A new iPad mini would bump the processor from an A8 to at least an A9, and could potentially come in under $300, making it a compelling purchase for students and schools with lower incomes.

Software and accessories are going to be a big part of this event, too. 9to5Mac reported on a framework called “ClassKit” in iOS 11.3, which lets teachers build quizzes to be deployed to iPads in class. We’ll hear about options to remotely and securely manage iPads, and we may see new keyboard cases to turn the iPads into more of a Chromebook replacement.

A Bloomberg story from January says Apple is updating its iBooks product, trying to strike once again into the e-book market. A new “Books” app, with deals from textbook publishers or Scholastic, would help keep schools and students locked into the Apple ecosystem.

With data security in the news recently, Apple will certainly play up how it’s a product company, not a data company, and how it takes security and privacy more seriously than Facebook or Google do.

What About Macs?

MacBook Air 2017

The second level of rumors comes from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who tends to have a lot of scattershot predictions about Apple products. He claims that Apple will have an inexpensive laptop, based on the current MacBook Air, which will start at under $999.

The MacBook Air doesn’t have impressive specs, but it has some faithful adherents because it’s the least expensive way to get into macOS. A cheaper MacBook Air, while no tech titan, would fit well with the theme of bringing products to education.

Long Shots: iPad Pro and iPhone SE

We are almost certainly not going to see new iPad Pros at this event; we think those are being saved for WWDC, on June 4. The wild card would be an update to the small, low-cost iPhone SE. The SE hasn’t been updated in two years, and a Digitimes (home of wildly unreliable rumors) says there will be a new model by “May or June.”

A new iPhone SE would fit with the low-cost theme of this event. Of the 371,382 students in Chicago public schools, 77.7 percent are “economically disadvantaged,” and a lot of those families may not think they’re able to afford Apple products. Apple’s devices become much better when they’re used with other Apple devices. Selling a full package of lower-cost phone, lower-cost tablet, and lower-cost laptop could help convert families who are now running Chromebooks and ZTE phablets into Apple fans.



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