Taking Back The Schools:

Taking Back The Schools:
An Open Letter To Steve Jobs and Cheryl Vedoe

Dear Steve and Cheryl:

As a junior high teacher/technology coordinator and a former writer for My Mac Magazine I have sat back and watched as Apple’s Education Division continues to flounder. In the past six months you have admitted to poor timing in reorganizing that division. At Macworld Expo two weeks you, were quoted by resellers that in regarding education, “We f______ up”. Fine, but Steve, the problem runs much deeper. Here are a few problems that I see and some Thinking Different solutions:

Problem 1
First, while other companies send representatives out to the schools, Apple sends flyers and faxes. Personal contact is nonexistent. Remember the old United Airlines commercial about the boss who in a meeting with his sales staff hands each one plane tickets and announces that they need to get back to face-to-face contact? That is what your rivals are doing. Five years ago Apple sponsored technology seminars, inviting teachers to day-long conferences showing the latest in integrating technology into the curriculum. Apple regional sales staff helped in making presentations. But most importantly, they pressed the flesh, made contacts and checked on educators who had upgraded with Macintoshes. Also, it provided teachers with a forum for educators to meet, swap information and exchange ideas that ignited the fire of learning in students. It was truly a supportive network that fueled Apple’s dominance in education.

Easy, start holding Apple conferences again in in 15-20 major cities. Unlike before, do not charge admission. This is a cheap price for the good will it will create. Hold the first one in the spring to create buzz for the summer ordering season. An excellent gift would be to give a time limited copy of OSX (3 month life) as a way of wetting the taste buds. Make the second in the fall to give educators a chance to have questions and lesson plans available to share.

Problem 2
Second, hardware and software costs during a decline in education funding. Yes, computers are cheaper than they were five years ago, but the available funding is smaller, too. Apple educational discounts are a joke. Granted, shipping is free, but the value isn’t what it used to be.

Clear out the old iMac inventory by offering truly bottom line deals. For example, an entry level iMac with 128k of SDRAM for $600. Make sure to include a single disk copy of Groliers Encyclopedia and MacLink Plus 12 instead of Quicken, etc.. Granted, the Education Solutions bundle is nice, however, most schools have very specific software needs. Offer iBooks for $999. Even more daring is the following. Any school that that bought ten or more Macs send the Principal a Cube with a monitor. If a lab was purchased send a PowerBook to the computer teacher (refurbished is ok).

Problem 3
Third, Apple training for teachers. Recently, I completed the Intel Teach to the Future program co-sponsored by Microsoft. The program is designed to teach educators how to use Office 2000 in the classroom and to have teachers train other teachers in their building. Flat out Steve, this program is a very effective way that the Windows world is using to kill off Apple education by making teachers dependent upon Windows Office 2000.

It’s time to counter-attack on the training front. With the excess inventory you are now carrying it’s a perfect time to setup Apple Education centers in every state. This program could be attached to let’s say the University of Phoenix. During school days, students could come visit on a 1/2 or full day field trip and be immersed in educational technology. From iMovie projects to HyperStudio presentations. At night, FREE teacher education classes (college credit optional) involving the integration of Appleworks, etc. into study units. After the teacher has completed the program, offer them a free iBook if they send in a six hour video showing them training their fellow staff members.

Problem 4
Advertising. Why is it that Dell is making people “ohh and ahh” about wireless internet in the classroom when Apple’s AirPort has been around for two years? What is the next thing we’re going to see, Compaq bragging about fan-less computers as if they invented it? When I had a regular column for My Mac magazine, I begged Apple to create commercials that pounded on Apple’s advantage in and out of the classroom. For two years things were looking up, remember “Flaming Bunny”? But lately, BORING!!!

Get the word out to the non-Mac world that iMacs are perfect in the classroom because they don’t distract students because they’re silent. Show actual schools from your school flyers (I’m thinking of the Douglas County, Colorado school brochure) that have adopted the AirPort technology. Remember, parents want their children to have the technological tools that make learning exciting. But they don’t know these great technologies. Non-Mac users still think the iMacs come with the “hockey puck” mouse. Word of mouth doesn’t work quick enough when you have less than ten percent of the market.

Problem 5
Gravitating to schools to OSX. Right now it’s hard enough to get schools to buy any type of software, but an operating system is bottom on the priority list. Mainly due to its sky-high licensing fees. Teachers and technology coordinators want a crash proof computer, but if it comes down to a choice between programs and an operating system, the OS will lose every time.

License OSX to schools for $100 per ten computers. By doing this schools will upgrade the OS. Plus, they will be more inclined to buy new computers when they know that that Apple is willing to help them. I mentioned above giving out a time limited sampler to schools. Teachers and school cannot afford to make purchasing mistakes. Apple must return to being a school’s best friend. Once a school has installed OSX, help them with troubleshooting. Have a separate, free phone-in support division for schools. Send out on CD-ROM a COMPLETE troubleshooting guide every three months with a linked website available with the latest solutions. Send out rewards to educators who solve bugs and post their fixes online. Teachers have too much to do and too little time go this transition alone.

Steve, it’s the fourth quarter and time is running out. Apple has 18 months to turn the education division around. If you don’t go after education with less than 110% effort the game is over. Ninety minute speeches won’t work. It’s time to attack with the force of Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Raven defense. The question is, are you willing to deal with a little pain now or the death of the education market in 2002?

Mark Marcantonio

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