Apple’s January 19th education event brings the iPad to the forefront as an educational tool to replace textbooks and classroom computers. Apple is once again focusing on the K-12 education market, a market it dominated in the early 1980′s with the Apple II. But is the iPad really the device Apple is focusing on here? Or is there another device in Apple’s future that this event is paving the way for? I think Apple needs a new device, I call the ePad.
So what is an ePad?
I envision the ePad as a smaller, more rugged, and less expensive iPad. Amazon has forged the way for lower priced tablets with its Kindle Fire, which is a 7 inch form factor tablet that they sell for $199. The question is, can Apple build an ePad for the education market that they can sell somewhere in the $200-300 range to schools and families? I think they can, and here is what I think it could be.
It will have a 7-8″ touch display, but maintain the current iPad 1024×768 screen resolution. This will allow all current iPad apps to run just fine without modification or introducing a new screen resolution for developers to deal with.
But wait, didn’t Steve tell us that the 7 inch form factor tablet was D.O.A., that it was too small and would have to come with something to sand down our fingertips? Yes, but remember, the target audience for the ePad would be children. They have smaller fingers already, so they would not have any trouble hitting the smaller touch targets. They also have better eyesight, so the higher dpi screen resolution shouldn’t be a factor either.
To keep the cost down, the ePad would come in 8GB and 16GB configurations and be equipped with either an A4 or A5 processor. It would also have a front facing camera to be used with Face Time to allow students to collaborate in virtual teams with other students around the world. It may also have a rear facing camera for photos and videos for integration into projects.
The other important factor is the housing for the unit. It needs to be rugged enough to withstand being dropped or hauled around in a backpack and should have some form of screen protection. This is one area where Apple needs to focus on function over form. Remember the eMac, the larger and heavier version of the iMac?
So, will Apple make such a device? If they do, will they sell it exclusively to schools, or make it available to the general public? I hope they do build it and make it generally available. I know I would buy one for my kids (ages 9 and 6). They love the iPad already and while I wouldn’t want a 7 inch tablet for myself, I do think it would be the perfect size for students to use.