This is the iPad’s first holiday season on the market, and Apple is positioning the software update as another reason to buy.

“iOS 4.2 makes the iPad a completely new product, just in time for the holiday season,” said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement.

Users can download the new software by syncing their devices with iTunes.

Ed-tech observers said the new software is a significant upgrade that could help further position the iPhone and iPad as instructional tools.

“This update is most welcome for those who have iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads,” said Ray Schroeder, professor emeritus and director of the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service. “It will make a huge difference to those of us who teach with these tools. We had been using workarounds such as to shift documents to other devices for printing. With so many schools and colleges providing iPads to students, these upgrades will have an immediate impact on teaching and learning.”

Schroeder said the top complaints he had heard before Apple’s announcement were the iPad’s lack of multitasking, lack of organizing folders, and inability to print documents.

“This puts the iPad once again at the head of the ever-growing pack of tablet slates,” he said. “[The new software] addresses nearly all of the concerns of educators at this point; it really adds to the value and utility of the iPad in the classroom.”

He said educators always welcome any improvements that will enhance a device’s accessibility for students or instructors with disabilities—and toward that end, the new Apple software’s “Braille support and voice over keyboard control option are helpful.”

Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at the Plano Independent School District in Texas, was more cautious in his assessment of the new software and its potential impact.

“Printing is a critical operation, as is editing,” Hirsch said. “The printing is still weak, with only support for a single HP printer included, and Apple still is not providing [the ability] to allow full editing of web-based applications. Fortunately, Google decided to modify [its] Docs apps rather than wait for Apple to include that support in the new iOS.”

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