Educators mull Apple’s latest announcements

During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., earlier this week, Apple announced price reductions and new versions of its iPhone smart phone and MacBook Pro laptops, as well as an updated version of its Macintosh operating system–leading educators to ponder the significance of these announcements for schools.

On June 8, Apple unveiled its newest iPhones–the 16-gigabyte version of the 3G S for $199, and the 32-gigabyte version for $299–and reduced the cost of its 8-gigabyte 3G phone, which came out last year, to $99 instead of $199.

“The $99 price point for the iPhone could be interesting,” said Scott Testa, a technology expert who teaches marketing at St. Joseph’s University. He said that with the cheaper price tag for the entry-level iPhone, more universities might be inclined to use iPhones for educational purposes.

“Every $100 you move down in consumer electronics brings in a lot more customers,” said industry analyst Michael Gartenberg, with the market research firm Interpret. “Ninety-nine dollars is a psychological price point, so that’s a real barrier to move through. It becomes something people can afford–it becomes an affordable luxury.”

Apple’s newest iPhone could present more options for schools and universities. For instance, the newest iPhone operating software, available for downloading June 17, lets software developers sell additional content, such as electronic books, within applications.

Educators also might like some of the new iPhone’s other features, such as its ability for “tethering,” which means using the phone to connect to a computer through the internet. Twenty-two wireless carriers will enable tethering, and AT&T says it will have tethering some time in the future. The new iPhone software also will allow users to cut, copy, and paste text, and the new hardware will allow users to enter voice commands, which might be useful for learners with disabilities.

However, educators seem to be less thrilled about Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops and its newest operating system, called Snow Leopard.

For its MacBook line, Apple showed off new laptops that boast longer battery life and faster processors. The company rolled out a new 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,200, or $100 less than an existing similar model, and a 15-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,700, or $300 less than the current model.

For schools and universities, Testa doesn’t think this is a “dramatic change.”

As for Snow Leopard, it offers an improved version of QuickTime, an updated Safari web browser (Safari 4), a feature that integrates the dock with Expose to simplify switching between Windows, and it integrates Microsoft Exchange across key applications, which is designed to sway enterprise users from Windows.

Snow Leopard will launch in September–two months before Microsoft launches Windows 7–and the upgrade to Snow Leopard is $29.