I’m at Apple’s education-themed event at Lane Tech College Prep high school in Chicago. Some of the pre-event scuttlebutt involved the company releasing a cheaper new iPad to compete with Google’s Chromebooks for adoption in schools. But the new 9.7″ iPad, which Apple’s Greg Jozwiak just introduced, and which goes on sale today, sells for $329 retail and $299 for education, the same as the model it’s replacing.
What’s new is upgraded hardware, including the A10 Fusion chip and–more tangibly–support for the Pencil, the pressure-sensitive stylus formerly reserved for iPad Pro models. But perhaps more important, Apple is introducing a ton of school-related software and initiatives, which it’s still in the process of unveiling as I write. Among them:
- New versions of the bundled iWork apps with additional features to appeal to students and education, including “smart annotation” and the ability to create iBooks digital books in Pages
- Tools for making it easy for schools to manage iPads–taking on a Chromebook strength–such as the ability for a kid to easily sign into a shared iPad
- Classwork, a new cloud-based service to help educators assign classwork and otherwise run their classrooms via Apple devices
- Classkit, a framework that lets third-party apps integrate into Classwork
- Everyone Can Create, a curriculum for iPad-based teaching involving drawing, music, photography, and video
Chromebooks and web-based apps have come up only a couple of times during Apple’s presentation, but the overarching message is clear: iPad-based education is about a full stack of hardware and apps tuned for creativity. That’s way more in sync with the Apple way than an event centered around a lower price would have been.