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Apple chief stresses education at NECC

Apple chief Steve Jobs gave his first-ever keynote at the National Educational Computing Conference, saying the future for educational technology is wirelessly networked computers

Despite rumours of new Macs, no products were unveiled as Apple chief Steve Jobs gave his first-ever keynote at the 22nd Annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Chicago today. Instead, Jobs stressed Apple's place in and commitment to the education market.

Educators began lining up at 6.30am in the morning to hear the speech, which began at 8.30am as Kathy Norris, NECC's president, introduced Jobs.

"We're in education not just because we want to make revenue and profits, although that's important, but because we give a damn, just like you guys," Jobs told the educators.

He talked about Apple's offerings targeted at students, teachers and administrators. For students, he said, the big future for educational technology is wirelessly networked computers.

"Rather than bringing students to the computer, the new way is bringing computers to the students," Jobs said. "We're seeing this start to happen.

According to research firm IDC, the use of notebook computers in the education market will eventually surpass that of desktop systems by more than a factor of three. Jobs asserted that Apple is the market leader in education notebook sales, with 26 percent of the market share, and number one in education wireless technology, thanks to its AirPort technology. Jobs said that Apple has sold over 500,000 AirPort Base Stations and AirPort cards.

In addition, Jobs touted the company's new iBook, saying Apple "couldn't make them fast enough". In fact, the company supplied 100 iBooks for NECC attendees to borrow during the conference. Jobs also addressed teachers directly, saying that digital media can dramatically enhance learning and fun.

He then tailored Apple's recent "digital lifestyle" marketing pitch, recasting it in terms of digital methods of teaching. He demonstrated how iDisk, Apple's free, on-line storage service, could be used to save digital photos and share them with other teachers and students.

Jobs also pitched HomePage, Apple's online (also free) tool for creating basic Web pages, to build Web pages for use in the classroom. "Anybody on any computer anywhere in the world can, at any time, access your personal Web page," Jobs said. "It can be shared with parents, kids, and colleagues. Such Web pages can be used to post homework, teaching tips, and other information."

Jobs also promoted the use of digital camcorders and iMovie 2 for creating educational films by teachers and students.

Jobs demonstrated iDVD, Apple's consumer-level DVD authoring tool. However, he stated that this software will not be released as a stand-alone product -- it will remain available only with Apple's top-of-the-line Power Mac G4/733. This model is the only in the Power Mac line that is equipped with Pioneer's SuperDrive, which can burn DVDs for use in consumer players.

Turning to administrators, Jobs said most school systems would be using Web-based student information systems within the next 24 months. In turn, he presented Apple's newly acquired PowerSchool, a provider of Web-based student information systems for K-12 schools and school districts, as such as solution.

PowerSchool is a completely Web-based student information system that enables districts and schools to record, access, report and manage their student data and performance records in real time. Parents, students, teachers and administrators use the system to share information about grades, attendance records and homework assignments.

Jobs said Apple was investing a "lot" in PowerSchool. He said that the system was currently being used by over 3,000 school districts. In contrast, Jobs barely mentioned Mac OS X, Apple's recently released, next-generation operating system, during his speech.

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