Expect new iPads to be the centerpiece of Apple's big education event this year. That was my guess in the hours after Apple announced its more than a week ago, and all the news since then continues to point in that direction.
But let's back up a bit. Apple's surprise announcement that it's holding a spring event is notable because of its focus on education -- "Join us to hear creative new ideas for teachers and students," the invitation said, under the "Let's take a field trip" headline -- and its location: The event will play out at the Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. (There won't be a live video stream, but you can followstarting 30 minutes before the event kicks off at 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET.)
The last purely education-focused Apple event wasin New York City. It was the launch of digital textbooks, and wasn't about hardware at all. In the six years since, with its Chromebook and Google Classroom platforms. Apple is looking to turn the tide.
That said, just because the focus will be on schools and education doesn't mean Apple can't slip a few other announcements into its Chicago presentation. Moreover, anything that doesn't hit on March 27 could be kept on deck for the company's WWDC), which is just over two months away (June 4 in San Jose).(
With that in mind, here's our best guess as to what Apple could unveil in Chicago on Tuesday.
Editors' note: This story was originally posted March 16 at 11:03 a.m. PT, soon after the Chicago event was announced. It has been updated with subsequent news, and a new prediction regarding AR.
New iPads: Apple is supposedly working on iPhone X. But we wouldn't expect those to hit until later in the year, if they arrive in 2018 at all. Instead, a refresh of the , released almost exactly a year ago, is far more likely. It's not fancy, but it's by far the best iPad value, and a perfect candidate for the education market. A processor refresh, at the very least, is due, and new cameras wouldn't hurt, either. (Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says a new entry-level iPad is, in fact, on deck; and here's .)that borrow the found on the
Pencil, perhaps? The Apple Pencil is a great tool, but it's limited to expensive . I'm going out on a limb and guessing that Apple finds a way to include Pencil support in lower-cost iPads, to support art and other graphics-based work on iPads in schools. Maybe that would mean a redesigned, more school-friendly Pencil, too, that doesn't have an easy-to-lose end cap, is easier to hold in smaller hands and doesn't roll off tables. (An eraser function would also be nice). Consider the invite graphic (at the top of this story): lots of flowing pencil-like lines -- that's probably no accident. Indeed, MacRumors quotes KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo as saying, "The new low-price 9.7-inch iPad ... will likely support Apple Pencil."
Coding initiatives: Apple's been intent to spread Swift to kids, via the iPad Everyone Can Code program to Chicago schools to teach Swift, which could be part of what Apple revisits at this event. Maybe it's a new app, or coding toolset, but look for something that brings tech-focused learning to the precollege set.app and through other efforts. Last December, Apple expanded its
Wild card: New keyboard? If Apple is really going all-in on iPads as Bluetooth keyboards, but Apple hasn't made its own keyboard accessory. Its smart keyboard cover only works with iPad Pros via the Smart Connector. Maybe lower-cost iPads could also get the smart connector... or maybe not., then something needs to be done to help the lower-cost iPad hit that goal. There are plenty of great
AR surprises: Apple is already a major player in augmented reality, and that could end up appearing in educational efforts. Google's phones with selfie sticks to explore solar systems in classrooms. Apple could be doing the same with iPhones and iPads, especially since ARKit is with more functions.initiative has already used
Education pricing plans: Apple already offers discounts for educators, but ramping up the deals here -- on iPads, Macs, software and services -- would help the company regain strength in the education market, which -- as noted above -- has been tilting toward Google's Chromebook platform in a big way over the past few years.
What not to expect in Chicago
In addition to iPad Pros, I also think it's a bit too early for Apple to be showing off new MacBooks. That includes a rumored MacBook Air revamp which is said to be in the works. In the same piece cited above, sources for Bloomberg's Gurman agree, stating that a new laptop "probably won't be ready in time for next week."
Personally, I also wouldn't expect these other Apple products, both real and expected: theannounced last September that still hasn't been released, and the . This Apple event is explicitly about education, so expect a tighter focus than the norm.
Or not! Remember that, aside from the reports cited from third parties, these are all guesses on my part. We'll know for sure once the event kicks off in Chicago at 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET, 8 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, March 27..
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