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Although Apple watchers had tipped that the company would release plenty of new gear last week, like new MacBooks, iPhones, and a combo charging pad for it that could be used for Airpods and Watch as well, we only got a new iPad 9.7-inch.

Well, there were some new nice looking Watch straps too, but this really was about the company wanting to show that it too can be cool for school.

Apple took over the massive, 4400-pupil Lane Tech College Preparatory High School in central Chicago for the event, hoping to persuade that the new iPad is a better option for the educational sector than Google Chromebooks.

Google is well-established in the educational market, and Apple had to package up the new iPad with management and scheduling software for student accounts, teacher support tools, and apps for studies to be seen as an alternative.

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The idea is that the new iPad 9.7-inch with an Apple Pencil are superior alternatives to Chromebooks for students following creative curricula especially.

It’s true that you can use the two Apple devices and make some slick digital creations, with 1080p video and high-quality audio, but poorer schools might struggle with the pricing: even with the $30 educational discount the new iPad 9.7-inch costs $509 for the Wi-Fi only version and 32 gigabyte of storage.

There’s a $14 educational discount for the Apple Pencil, which the new device supports, borrowing that screen technology from the iPad Pro, taking the cost to $145 including GST.

This means the cheapest iPad 9.7-inch option with an Apple Pencil is $654. Students will need a keyboard cover as well, like the Logitech Rugged Combo that’s not yet available in New Zealand, and which sells for US$100 in the States.

A nice new iPad in other words, but it’s not cheap, nor are high-end Chromebooks.

For schools, pricey IT gear — and don’t forget, there are many more costs on top of the devices themselves, such as training, ongoing management, software, staff pay, and more — are both a necessary evil and tools that open up new opportunities.

Getting their gear and software into schools and bending the tree, or the students at least, while they are young, is hugely important for tech companies though.

For instance, if Apple can push its Swift open-source programming language to the fore (and it’s rather nice and free as well) in schools, that’s a major mindset win for the company.

With Swift comes Apple hardware and software, and the company’s ethos that users are not the product, propagated through the privacy-oriented iOS operating system version 11.3 upgrade. The thought of that will make Google, which feeds on user data, wince.

Young minds trained to use and to code on a particular platform while in the public educational system must be what tech companies like Apple and Google want more than anything.

Why do schools have to pay for iPads and Chromebooks though? Why don’t the tech giants simply give their goods to educational institutions for nominal charges or even free? Unlike schools, tech companies are swimming in cash thanks to huge, largely untaxed revenues, and that would be one way for them to give something back to society while investing in their own future.

Juha Saarinen attended Apple’s educational technology event as a guest of the company.

–Credit: nzherald.co.nz – Technology