There is no doubt that Apple’s arsenal when it comes to education is not yet fully formed. Back when the MacBook Air was a Thing, too expensive for secondary education, Apple got the idea that the less expensive iPad, the computer of the future, should be up to bat.
Since then, things have not gone according to plan. I started writing about this in “What if the Modern iPad Really Isn’t Right for K-12 Education?” From what I’ve read, what readers tell me and input from my professor wife, there is a modern price cutoff that dictates what the average secondary school student (or school) can afford these days.
This could be due to the price norm created by Chromebooks. Or, in the case of personal purchases, the diversion of funds into smartphone-related affairs. Or the erosion of middle-class income. All of the above come into play.
That cutoff is roughly US$250. (it’s more like $400 in a community college.)
This puts the modern (2017) iPad in the running, but that strategy doesn’t account for cases where secondary schools may want to opt for a more full-featured notebook computer. That’s, after all, what the student aspires to and will generally use in college.
A Coup For Apple
Now that Apple has come out swinging with the Mac during WWDC, it would be a brilliant move if the company did something dramatic in education and launched a MacBook Air 2. Competing hardware in terms of PCs and Chromebooks suggest that Apple could meet that cutoff price if engineering changes were made. For example, reverting to a hard disk.
It would be a bold, heroic move by Apple. It would be a statement that Apple is committed to having either an iPad or a notebook Mac in the hands of every student who wants (and can afford) an Apple product.
Recently, it has been fashionable to suggest that the MacBook Air might be discontinued by Apple. And yet, not only did Apple not drop this Mac at WWDC, it announced a modest processor upgrade. (The continued use of the Broadwell CPU suggests Apple is up to something anyway in terms of controlling costs.)
One of the things I’ve learned from my weekly podcast, Background Mode, is that the vast majority of my guests grew up with an Apple II. That computer set the stage for the entire rest of their careers. It would be a shame if, in Apple’s renewed emphasis on the Mac, the company forgot about the powerful influence a Mac can have on a youngster. It’s something that lasts a lifetime.
Indeed, it’s a significant engineering stretch to redesign a MacBook Air 2 to meet Apple’s quality goals and also hit that crucial price point, but that’s the definition of a major challenge. The alternative is for the competition to continue eating away at Apple’s education market share with low cost alternatives to the iPad, even as Apple remains helpless to stop the erosion.