Amazon seeks fewer Apples for teachers
The e-commerce giant is hoping its Kindle classroom program moves in on Mac and iPad turf.
Amazon announced Wednesday that it wants to see Kindle e-readers and tablets become the devices of choice in U.S. schools. Its new Whispercast for Kindle is built specifically to entice schools to purchase Kindle devices, distribute documents and notices over those devices, restrict Wi-fi and Facebook access and pay for it all through the district's tab.
It's ambitious, but it also sounds awfully familiar. Maybe it's because Apple had a similar idea when it launched its "Classrooms of Tomorrow" initiative back in 2008. Cupertino has already created labs full of MacBooks, iPads and iPod Touch devices to wheel in and out of classrooms, created its iTunes U store for education apps and put together a string of success stories at the Greene County school district in North Carolina, the Missouri School of Journalism and Ohio State University.
Amazon has taken notes and cribbed elements of Apple's classroom success to build its own track record. Back in 2010, Amazon convinced Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Fla., to replace textbooks with 2,000 Kindle e-readers. Since then, the program has expanded to 122 other schools in Pinellas County. It also provided a template for businesses and charities that have since adopted the Kindle for their own purposes.
Schools are just another battleground for the two tech titans, which have been trading shots since Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007. Apple countered with the iPad in 2010, Amazon responded with the Kindle Fire in 2011 and the two have been beefing up their iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and digital book and periodical offerings since. Amazon hit a nerve back in September, when its newly released $159, Kindle Fire HD became the first sub-$200 tablet recommended by Consumer Reports.
Apple is expected to return fire by announcing an iPad Mini later this month that will be similar in size to the Fire HD, and Amazon can ill afford to cede ground. It's part of the reason Amazon has taken its schoolyard fight with Apple a step further by extending its Whispernet plan to free Kindle reading applications for iPads, iPhones, Google Android phones and tablets, PCs and Macs. Taking up some of Apple's space in the classroom would likely work out just fine for Amazon, but Kindle taking Apple to school with help from Apple's own devices would be worthy of a gold star.
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I Pads could support similar functions, but the likelihood is that more time would be spent on Face Book, Angry Birds and other social media than time spent reading school related material. If Amazon can line up educational publishers to facilitate channeling teacher designed text materials to students via Kindle, i think they can gain an advantage. School districts would rather invest in instructional tools than provide toys for students that might get used for educational purposes.
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