Apple has offered up a preview of what iOS 9.3 will bring, and one new feature is an increased focus on making the iPad a key component in schools.
There's no doubt that Apple needs to find a way to sell more iPads. While sales haven't exactly been dismal - any other tablet maker would love to have the sort of sales that the iPad sees - they are on a downward trajectory, and nothing Apple has done over the past couple of years has changed that.
Apple isn't a newbie to the education arena, but this new thrust in iOS 9.3 shows a renewed interest in getting iPads into schools and the students hooked on them at an early age. And it plans to do this by making iPads no-brainer easy for teachers to leverage.
"iPads in classrooms" is a hot topic. There are plenty of studies that suggest they are a great education tool, but some teachers seem to hate them. Many see the "mad rush" to get iPads into schools as worrying, because students quickly find a way to turn the educational tool into a tool to fritter time away on Facebook and such.
But Apple is making a renewed push to get more of them into classrooms, and with the emphasis being on ease of use and control, this will no doubt win new contracts. Simplicity sells, especially in education. And if Apple can come up with ways to better manage the iPads that are in the hands of students, that's likely to remove some of the objections. In that respect, iOS 9.3 seems to be a step in the right direction.
Education is a huge potential well for Apple, with some 50 million students in the public elementary and secondary school system. At around $650 per iPad, that's a multibillion-dollar market for Apple even if it only manages to catch one in every ten students. In real terms, though, that's only an extra 5 million iPad sales before that well is dried up and Apple is back to relying on upgrades.
There will also be a few extra sales from parents getting one for Jony or Jane for use at home too, but this will be a mere drop in the ocean.
And all that means a bit more money in the bank for Apple.
And yet the problems facing the iPad are as real as ever. It's just not the total must-have that the iPhone is, and the upgrade cycle is more like that of a computer than a cellphone (and the sales figures support this, with quarterly sales being closer to that of Macs than iPhones). It's already feeling like everyone who wants an iPad already has one, and is squeezing as much life out of it as possible before buying another.
Making a new play for the education market is more about propping up iPad sales than it is about increasing them.