Ap­ple’s March event: win­ners and losers

Ja­son Snell re­veals who and what gained from the event

Macworld - - FEATURE -

Ap­ple’s me­dia event was unique, from the venue to the laser fo­cus on a sin­gle topic to the lack of a live video stream. But like all Ap­ple me­dia events, some par­ties walked away strength­ened – and oth­ers were left look­ing sad by the side of the road.

The win­ners

The iPad

Ap­ple hasn’t al­ways shown the kind of love for the iPad that it has done for its much more suc­cess­ful

cousin the iPhone, but this event was the iPad’s event to shine, and that’s an im­por­tant day in any prod­uct’s life. The iPad has gained mo­men­tum since Ap­ple split the prod­uct line in two, and both the £319 iPad and the pricey iPad Pro mod­els have seem­ingly sold well.

Ap­ple’s cheap­est and most pop­u­lar model didn’t just win by be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion, though.

It also picked up a sixth-gen­er­a­tion up­date that in­cluded a faster pro­ces­sor and, per­haps most im­por­tantly, sup­port for the Ap­ple Pen­cil. With that, the iPad be­came a plat­form for a col­lec­tion of sketch­ing and note-tak­ing apps that will make it that much more ver­sa­tile, whether you’re a stu­dent or not.

Teach­ers and stu­dents

Ap­ple’s hour-long event, and the hands-on ses­sions at Lane Tech Col­lege Prep High School, were love let­ters from Ap­ple to teach­ers and stu­dents. Among the prod­uct an­nounce­ments, teach­ers got a col­lec­tion of new tools to bet­ter ad­min­is­ter their classes, and stu­dents get to ben­e­fit from ad­vanced aug­mented re­al­ity fea­tures as well as the Ap­ple Pen­cil.

Chicago. Since Mac­world Expo left New York City in 2003, Ap­ple has held only one ma­jor me­dia event out­side of the San Fran­cisco Bay Area: the 2012 un­veil­ing of iBooks Au­thor in an ed­u­ca­tion­themed event in New York City. That all changed when Ap­ple in­vited hun­dreds of mem­bers of the me­dia and VIPs to Lane Tech. In ad­di­tion to show­ing

off the city’s im­pres­sive pub­lic mag­net school, Ap­ple’s event spun off ad­di­tional events, in­clud­ing an all-star ses­sion at the brand-new Ap­ple Store in Chicago’s Loop, as well as a Tim Cook sit-down with Re­code’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Ap­ple Pen­cil

Once the do­main of the iPad Pro, the £89 Ap­ple Pen­cil is now open to own­ers of the low-cost six­th­gen­er­a­tion iPad. This should dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand the user base of the Pen­cil, which is good news not just for it, but to the app de­vel­op­ers who have writ­ten Ap­ple Pen­cil-en­hanced soft­ware. By be­ing avail­able on the sixth-gen­er­a­tion iPad as well as both iPad Pro mod­els, the Ap­ple Pen­cil con­tin­ues its march to­ward the main­stream.

The losers

Ap­ple Me­dia Event view­ers

Who knows why, but af­ter a long streak of livestream­ing ev­ery sin­gle Ap­ple me­dia event, this event wasn’t streamed live. (In­stead, an archived video will be posted af­ter the fact.) Sud­denly we were all live blog­ging like it was 2009, with word­for-word re­caps in­stead of a lit­tle more re­strained anal­y­sis. It was a fun throw­back, don’t get me wrong, but I think I pre­fer the world where peo­ple who want to see the Ap­ple event live can do so – and jour­nal­ists in at­ten­dance can dial back the blow-by-blow de­pic­tions and in­stead insert a lit­tle more con­text and anal­y­sis.

Google-pow­ered Chrome­books are tak­ing over the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket, thanks to Google’s ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion tools and the dirt-cheap prices of Chrome­book lap­tops. Any­one hop­ing Ap­ple would swoop in with an even lower priced iPad went home un­happy: The sixth-gen­er­a­tion iPad costs the same as the fifth-gen­er­a­tion model, and now Ap­ple’s try­ing to sell schools Ap­ple Pen­cils, too.

From Ap­ple’s per­spec­tive, the en­tire day was about telling why Ap­ple’s stuff is worth the ex­tra money, as well as play­ing catch-up with some ad­min­is­tra­tive tools and cloud stor­age quo­tas that lag well be­hind what Google of­fers to schools. It’s a work in progress, to be sure.

The iPad Pro

When it was first re­leased, the iPad Pro was dif­fer­en­ti­ated from the iPad by its sup­port for the Ap­ple Pen­cil and the Smart Con­nec­tor and Smart Key­board. In its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, the iPad Pro has been given other boosts – a big­ger screen on the 10.5in model, pow­er­ful pro­ces­sors, a wider colour gamut–that fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the plain old iPad.

But one of the ways the iPad Pro was dif­fer­ent – if you wanted to use an Ap­ple Pen­cil you had to buy one – is now gone. That will prob­a­bly win over at least some peo­ple – the ones who re­ally just want to use the Ap­ple Pen­cil – over to the much cheaper iPad.

It’s im­por­tant to note, though, that we’re com­par­ing 2018’s iPad to 2017’s iPad Pro. Pre­sum­ably, new iPad Pro mod­els are on the hori­zon, pos­si­bly with smaller bezels, Face ID, faster pro­ces­sors, and who knows what else. It’s al­most cer­tain that the gap will widen again, but for now it’s a lit­tle bit closer.

The Mac

There was a time when Ap­ple’s en­tire ed­u­ca­tion strat­egy was the Mac. That time was 1984 through 2010. But these days, the iPad is most def­i­nitely Ap­ple’s story in ed­u­ca­tion.

I no­ticed two men­tions of the Mac in Ap­ple’s pre­sen­ta­tion, and they were telling. The first was when Ap­ple put up a slide of soft­ware run­ning on a Mac… only to wipe to a slide show­ing that now it ran on iOS too. The sec­ond was the an­nounce­ment that the iOS app Ap­ple Class­room would be brought to the Mac, which was nice, but that’s an app for

teach­ers. The con­text was clear: Mac sup­port might be nice for teach­ers (be­cause they’re older?), but isn’t as nec­es­sary for stu­dents.

Ap­ple still pro­fesses its love of the Mac, and in cer­tain ar­eas in ed­u­ca­tion it’s still pow­er­ful. In one of the demon­stra­tion class­rooms at the school, above the many iPads show­ing off Swift Play­grounds and ARKit and other fea­tures, was a mez­za­nine full of iMacs, more than a dozen of them all in a row, pre­sum­ably be­ing used with Fi­nal Cut or Logic or other high-pow­ered me­dia ap­pli­ca­tions. The area was dark­ened and roped off. The Mac still ex­ists and still has some rel­e­vance, but at this event it was barely more than a foot­note.

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