News Corp. is hoping to be a worm in Apple's iPad, of sorts, with its new education-oriented tablet. The news giant unveiled its Amplify Tablet on Wednesday at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas.
News Corp. is billing Amplify as the first open, tablet-based platform designed specifically for teaching and learning. The 10-inch tablet runs on Google's Android mobile operating system.
"We want to transform the way teachers teach and students learn," said Amplify CEO Joel Klein. "Technology has revolutionized the world, but not the classroom. Our hope is that this tablet will help change that."
More than a Tablet
The Amplify Tablet offers what the company calls a "Wi-Fi-enabled, one-to-one personalized learning solution." The device is $299 when purchased with a two-year subscription at $99 per year. The subscription includes exclusive software designed for teaching and learning, pre-loaded content and reference tools, customer care, professional development and school-level device management.
School districts can also opt to provide students with the Amplify Tablet Plus, which includes a 4G data plan. The Amplify Tablet Plus is priced at an introductory offer of $349 for the device when purchased with a two-year subscription at $179 per year. The subscription includes everything in the Amplify Tablet and 4G LTE connectivity, smart data-management tools and more.
"This is more than just a tablet. It's a complete learning solution organized around the school day," said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify's Access division. "We believe it's both more affordable and more impactful than just about any other product in the education technology market."
Niche Tablet Market Growing
Avi Greengart, principal analyst at Current Analysis, told us he has not used the tablet yet, but vertical tablets are definitely an area of interest.
Toys"R"Us last September rolled out a tablet aimed at children. Dubbed Tabeo, the device is loaded with content that Toys"R"Us hopes causes children to nag their parents to buy them one and offers security features to keep children safe. After plenty of buzz at launch, though, there has not been much talk about the tablet.
Panasonic has offered a rugged tablet called the Toughpad for hard-core users. Nabi 2 offers a touchscreen tablet for children, as does Leapfrog. And Dell targeted the healthcare and financial industries with it latest tablet launch.
Apple Reigns in Education
But competing against tablet market dominator Apple with a niche tablet and a tablet that targets the education market are two different things. The iPad is a big winner in the education market.
"Education is also an area where Apple is doing particularly well using its general-purpose tablet," Greengart said. "There are a lot of apps, and versatility makes it one of the more successful tablets in education."
Apple has iTunes U and iBooks for the iPad, both of which the education market is finding valuable. How valuable? A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt study found that 78 percent of students who use the iPad for Algebra 1 tested Proficient or Advanced. That compares with 59 percent who did not use the iPad.