By Jim Karpen on Wed, 01/18/2012
Apple usually hints at the content of its media events via the design of the announcement — but never says up front what's going to be announced. The invitation for tomorrow's event in New York City appears to have a chalkboard theme, indicating a focus on education. Now Bloomberg has posted a detailed news story that apparently confirms some of the rumors that have been going around. It seems that Apple is going to jump headlong into the $10 billion/year textbook industry, with a focus on K-12. There have been mixed reports, but Bloomberg's sources confirmed that Apple intends to release a set of tools that will make it easier for authors to create interactive digital textbooks. The goal, the report says, is to sell more iPads to the education market by making a wide array of textbooks available. And while the Bloomberg report doesn't mention it, Apple likely will also get into distribution via its iBook Store.
The focus isn't just on textbooks, though. The Bloomberg report says that Apple's tools are intended to help teachers and authors "self-publish" various teaching tools and lessons. For large publishers, the tools will help them transition their print textbooks to ebooks and make it easy to embed graphics and video.
Leading the event will be Apple software chief Eddy Cue, says Bloomberg. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple VP Roger Rosner, who leads Apple's productivity software development, such as the iWork suite, is heading up the development of the new textbook authoring tools.
The Bloomberg report says that the textbook industry is late coming to the digital revolution, with digital textbooks being just 2.8% of the market in 2010. To me, it's silly that the industry isn't farther along. As Bloomberg says, Apple has focused on getting the iPad into the education market "to encourage students to shun costly tomes that weigh down backpacks in favor of less-expensive, interactive digital books that can be updated anywhere via the Web." I'm guessing that one more time Apple is going to kick an industry into the future.
All of this, though, is somewhat speculative and relying on anonymous sources. We won't know for sure what Apple has up its sleeve until the company tells us tomorrow. But I'm betting the rumors are accurate, given what Walter Isaacson said in his biography about Steve Jobs being focused on textbooks at the time of his death, and given that the industry is ripe for an Apple-style revolution.
And while there is a fair amount of buzz, investment sites don't expect the stock to move on the announcement, since no new hardware is being introduced and since it appears that nothing in the works would suggest a large and immediate increase in revenue. As events go, some suggest it may be relatively ho hum. But I personally think it's exciting, and I look forward to hearing what Apple has to say. It just seems like the logical next step for education, and that it could greatly affect how students learn. Plus, given how rapidly the iPad is making inroads in the education market, it only makes sense that the next step be high quality educational materials for those iPads.