iPad with Apple Pencil support, $299 for schools, aimed at Chromebook

The big win for Apple's education-focused iPad is that Apple Pencil support is available throughout iWork and for digital books.

Video: Can Apple cut into Google's education lead?

Apple CEO Tim Cook outlined the company's education efforts, with a $299 iPad for schools and more software to manage the classroom, teacher, and student experiences. Apple is going after the education market in a way that resembles how it appeals to creative pros, with an emphasis on the company's app ecosystem.

The big question is whether Apple can close its Google gap in education due to Chromebooks and Google Classroom. Apple's plan revolves around a new 9.7-inch iPad that will support Apple Pencil and likely compete with its own iPad Pro. The new iPad will have updates to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote to support Apple Pencil and annotations.

These specs, which are designed to compete with laptops and Chromebooks, include:

  • 8MP camera with HD video;
  • LTE support;10 hours battery life;
  • A-10 chip;9.7-inch display;
  • Augmented reality platform support;
  • A $329 cost for consumers and $299 for schools;
  • Logitech makes a Crayon for $49 as well as a rugged case.

On the augmented reality front, the Apple's next ARKit update supports walls and the Retina screen will provide better "AR experiences simply not possible on other devices." Apple also touted Boulevard AR, an art history app. Apple is leaning into ARKit for its science, art, and environmental education support.

Apple also touted management features for the iPad. Apple School Manager was also introduced to manage apps, Apple ID setup for students, account sharing, and bulk accounts. Apple claims that schools can create IDs for 1,500 students in less than a minute. Apple will also increase free storage for education from 5GB to 200GB.

The company also noted that its Classroom software is coming to the Mac and available as a beta in June. Another app is called Schoolwork, so teachers can connect with students. Schoolwork will allow teachers to assign an app and an activity within that software to see how an individual student is performing.

A new API in ClassKit will connect applications to Schoolwork. Apple's take on education revolved around creativity. The company launched a program called Everyone Can Create, which is a curriculum for "a new kind of learning experience." The cross subject support touches on music, video, photography and drawing.

But the iPad is the lead horse for Apple's education efforts. Here's a look at the specs in one image:

specs-for-ipad.jpg

Speaking at a high school in Chicago, Cook noted that Apple's "Macs and iPads are used throughout schools by students for everything from music to language arts and even advanced robotics." Cook also added that Apple has been formidable when teaching students how to code.

463a2b2a-7163-4e6b-8c64-1436210f8dde800.jpg

"At Apple we care deeply about education because we love kids and we love teachers," said Cook.

Part of Cook's opening missive seemed to be aimed at convincing his audience that Apple still takes education seriously. There's a reason for that. Google's Chromebook has nearly 60 percent market share in education now, according to FutureSource Consulting. "We had a unique insight into how technology could inspire kids to unleash their creative genius. And we believed that technology could help teachers deliver a unique and personalized learning experience to all kids. We've never stopped believe this, and we've never stopped working on it," said Cook.

Apple cited its 40-year history in education and then noted the versatility of the iPad and how is portable. Greg Joswiak, vice president of iOS, iPad, and iPhone product marketing, even claimed that the iPad is an extension of the mind and that learning experiences are everywhere.

The company also is infusing ARKit into its Swift programming tools to teach kids to code. Swift Playgrounds will also support drone and robot programming.

Initial reaction

My take: Apple's suite of software is impressive and the teacher experience looks solid. IT shops will also appreciate the management tools. What's unclear is whether what Apple is highlighting will be able to coax budget-strapped school districts to switch to a new platform. Many of the features for education launched by Apple are already available from Google and Microsoft.

Apple seems to be betting on the appeal of the Pencil and the iPad as the big win.

Jason Cipriani:

Apple is putting together a compelling sales pitch for teachers and students. At first glance, Schoolwork is comparable to Google Classroom. The new iPad with a faster processor and Apple Pencil support is attractive for schools, sure, but also for the every day consumer.

-- With reporting from CNET liveand ZDNet's Jason Cipriani and Ross Rubin.