Back to the Classroom

Apple and schools have always gone together. Everyone in my generation has stories about a computer lab full of Macs when they were growing up. In recent history, Apple offered the eMac, but that died in 2006 and never got a satisfactory replacement. Is the time right to get back in the classroom?

While I don't consider Macs overpriced, the low end iMac is $1199 and the cheapest Mac mini runs $699 before adding a display. Add in the cable clutter, and I'm not sure Mac minis are the best options for a lab. I found myself looking at what Apple has done with their A4 platform and iOS and wondering how it could fit.

Apple is killing it with their platforming. The iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Apple TV are sharing most of their components, and even boards. Given that these are selling in quantities measured in hundreds of millions, their margins are great and give them some pricing freedom (Apple TV for $99). iOS is solid and only getting better. What if Apple built a new eMac based on the iPad?

Stands result in compromises, so all we need is a proper desktop case and a keyboard. The keyboard is easy. We already have it. For the case, let's look back to the sunflower iMac. That's the one with the articulating arm that was designed to easily move the screen and then have it stay put. Why do we need this? This is the answer to Gorilla Arm. Apps such as word processing, reading, video lessons, and anything with a light use of UI can be used in the vertical mode. If you are painting, drawing, or playing a touch based game, grab the edge of the display and pull it down. It will look just as Apple has patented it. When you are done, toss back to vertical. Can't you see Jony Ive holding back a joyous giggle as he shows you how this works?

Unibody aluminum will hold up well to kids knocking them around. The high degree of recyclability sets a good example as well. The minimal power draw of the A4 will lower utility bills.

Speaking of bills, I'll price this at 5 of them. $499 buys you the eMac + keyboard + iWork suite. Pages becomes the AppleWorks of today's generation. After unboxing, go crazy in the App Store. Apps like The Elements, Brushes, Google Earth -- the store is popping with great apps that kids will love. No need to be a switcher later in life. Kids will grow up with it.

I also think there is value in the inherit limitations of iOS. When I wrote papers on a IIc, I didn't have distractions. The computer and app were the same thing. The iPad brings this focus back. Sure, multi-tasking is on its way, but the OS is still designed with a singular app as the focus. This lowers the computer literacy bar, encouraging kids to get on with the creation, rather than get bogged down in the process. It can also aid in administration. For example, Grade 1 gets their own screen of apps. No unnecessary windows. No launchers present when apps are running. It just keeps things simple.

Will Apple actually build something like I envision? I feel like their are bigger fish to fry for them, but I think it would be amazing to see them take it back a little and return to the classroom in a big way.