Apple iPad Awaits Back-To-School Boom

The Apple iPad will dominate an influx of tablet computers into classrooms this fall, according to an education technology expert and industry reports.
"The iPad is the best tablet out there today that we've seen reviewed," said John Connolly, technology director for Chicago Public Schools, during the TechWeek conference this afternoon at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
The iPad's market dominance will translate to dominance in schools as educators adopt tablet computing this fall, experts agree. The iPad accounted for 90 percent of tablet sales in the third quarter, according to the research firm IDC.
Chicago had 700 iPads in 23 public schools during the past school year. This fall it will add 4,500 iPads in about 50 schools.
This week the U.S. Consumer Electronics Association predicted better-than-average sales for consumer electronics, led by tablets.
"I think they're ideally suited for the classroom for a variety of reasons," Sean Murphy, a senior analyst with CEA, told NPR. "A tablet gives you the functionality of a notebook, but it's easier to use, it's smaller. And I think what we'll see, in addition to the ease-of-use, is professors will be much more interested in incorporating lesson plans."
The CEA predicts tablet sales will grow 157 percent in 2011, with more than 26.5 million units shipped to dealers, resulting in $14 billion in shipment revenue.
“One year ago, tablets were a new and unproven market, and now they, along with other mobile connected devices including smartphones and eReaders, are leading the entire industry to positive growth,” said Steve Koenig, CEA’s director of industry analysis. “The revenue boost from these innovative products is undeniable as a number of other CE segments are reaching maturity and sales are naturally declining.”
Also this week, IDC predicted tablet sales would triple in the coming year.
While Connolly expects iPads to dominate the 2011-12 school year, he does not they'll retain that position for long.
"I know there's like ten more tablets that have come down the road since we took that route," Connolly said. "If I had to predict three years down the road, it's not going to be one device. It's going to be a mixture of devices."
It's not clear yet whether schools or students will bear the cost of technological transformation in the classroom: "I think in the next year we'll know whether it's a bring-your-own or a district-supported" effort, Connolly said.
CPS purchased the 4,500 iPads coming to Chicago classrooms this year with Illinois state grant funds. Its current iPads were published through a federal grant.
In the short term, districts will have to purchase educational apps to operate on iPads and other tablets, Connolly said.
"When we look at content and we start discussing content, today, CPS and other public school systems need to purchase that content because we don't possess it."
But Connelly predicted that would change as well, as school districts nationwide collaborate and utilize their own experts to develop their own apps.
"Years down the road we may not need to purchase content. That's what I foresee happening," Connolly said. "The markets not there yet, the system may not be there to deliver the content to the teachers."

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