QED: Apple number one in education market

Dell is no longer number one in the educational computing market, nor will it overtake Apple in the next school year. This according to statistics from Quality Education Data (QED) a provider of K-12 and higher education market research.

According to QED's statistics, there are 2,727,018 to 3,236,798 Apple systems installed in U.S. public schools compared to Dell's 1,240,420 to 1,572,042 range and Compaq's 738,680 to 997,485. In other words, Apple has over twice as many systems in use.

For the 2001-2002 school year, QED estimates that U.S. public schools will purchase 311,896 to 447,994 Macs compared to 203,808 to 270,500 Dell systems and 118,427 to 215,705 Compaq units.

In June of 2000, Apple claimed dominance in the market citing numbers provided by International Data Corp. That report said that Apple captured 26 percent of the U.S. education market and 14 percent of the worldwide education market.

However, last October Dell announced that recently released market data from Dataquest confirmed it was number one in the U.S. education market, ahead of all other Windows-based vendors and Apple. The sales ranking is determined not by total revenue, but rather by unit sales. Dataquest's numbers showed that Dell maintained a lead of five percentage points over the nearest competitor, Apple, for both the first and second quarter of 1999.

Jeanne Hayes, president of QED, admitted that tracking such figures can be a "tricky subject," and said that their research from last year (2000-2001) did show Dell as the leader. Certainly, Dell is the leader among Windows-based suppliers of hardware when one looks at "intent to purchase for the 2000-2001 school year," she said.

"However, our latest findings predicting purchases for the 2001-2002 were just published, reflecting research conducted in May-June of 2001," Hayes told MacCentral. Those figures clearly place Apple in the top spot in both installed units and intent to purchase units. "We've been conducting our study with school districts for 15 years. This study reflects a sample survey of districts, typically a more accurate way to project these kinds of data."

Apple has been fighting to regain its lead in the education market for the past nine months. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in October 2000 -- just days before Dell's announcement of education sales dominance -- that lower than expected educational sales were due to an ill-timed change in the way educational sales were handled.

Earlier that year Apple educational sales were handled with a combination of Apple personnel and third-party sales reps. That process changed when Apple terminated the third party reps to bring everything in-house.

"While doing this may have been smart, the timing wasn't," Jobs said at the time. "Our disappointing educational sales for the fourth quarter seem to be primarily caused by the sales force transition. The next big education sales quarter begins in April [2001], and we intend to be ready to start regaining market share."

Apple didn't waste any time making the necessary changes to once again become the leader in the education sector. Just 12 days after making the statements about slowing education sales, Apple announced that Cheryl Vedoe -- a former vice president of Apple's Education Division -- would rejoin the company as vice president of Education Marketing and Solutions.

Since then, Apple has focused a lot of energy on the education market with great success. In March, Apple announced they would buy PowerSchool, a provider of Web-based student information systems for K-12 schools and school districts.

With PowerSchool, teachers can enter grades and attendance information, post homework assignments, map learning activities to standards and monitor individual student progress or that of an entire class.

Administrators can use the system to centrally manage student records, eliminate manual data transfer, and automate many administrative functions, including the creation of state reports, report cards, transcripts, absentee lists and progress reports.

Parents can use the system with any home or office computer to check on their child's grades, attendance records and home assignments in real-time. And they can elect to receive automatic updates of their children's progress.

"Apple has a legacy of helping teachers teach and students learn. We are now expanding that mission to include helping schools run more effectively," said Jobs. "By acquiring PowerSchool and welcoming its talented employees to Apple, we instantly become the leading provider of web-based student information systems nationwide."

Apple didn't stop there -- just six weeks later Jobs stunned the crowd on Apple's campus when he announced the single largest sale of education laptops ever. Virginia's Henrico County Public Schools purchased 23,000 iBooks to give every middle and high school student and teacher access to their own laptop computer.

"We chose Apple's iBook because our experience has shown that it costs significantly more to support other platforms," said Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools. "Apple's iBook is the best product available to meet our instructional needs."

Jobs and Vedoe took Apple's education message on the road in June to the 22nd Annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Chicago. Jobs gave his first-ever keynote at the event, reiterating Apple's commitment to education.

"We're in education not just because we want to make revenue and profits, although that's important, but because we give a damn, just like you guys," Jobs told the educators.

MacCentral had the opportunity to interview Cheryl Vedoe during the conference and get her thoughts on Apple and education. She said that Apple was confident that Mac OS X would have a large presence in schools in the coming year and that Apple was working with vendors to make sure the software would be available when they made the switch to the new OS.

"We feel confident that this time next year, you'll see a majority of educational applications ready for Mac OS X and see many schools in a good position to make the transition," Vedoe said.

"We're dedicated to helping children reach their full potential. At Apple, education is in our DNA."

It's clear that the education market matters to Apple. Last year the company could have accepted defeat, but instead they made several strategic moves to regain the lead. According to the numbers provided by QED, Apple is well on the way to dominating education once again.

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