Apple's education shipments grow as desktops surge

Shipments of notebook and desktop computers to the lucrative education market have grown for Apple Computer over the last year as the company sees shipments of desktops begin to surge. Apple is following the usual up and down trends typically found in the education buying seasons, but the company has made some headway.

PC shipments by the numbers

Apple currently finds itself in third place in worldwide education computer shipments, behind Dell in first place and Hewlett Packard in second place. Rounding out the top five are Lenovo and Founder.

In the United States, Apple is in second place behind Dell. Hewlett Packard, Gateway and Lenovo round out the top five.

Year over year, Apple is seeing growth for education shipments both in the United States and worldwide. Comparing the fourth quarter of 2004 to the fourth quarter of 2005, Apple saw its education computer shipments rise 15.08 percent worldwide and 13.79 percent in the United States. By comparison, education leader Dell saw its worldwide shipments rise 6.51 percent, while its U.S. shipments rose by 3.84 percent.

Apple’s closest growth competitor is Hewlett Packard, which saw worldwide growth of 13.54 percent and 9.9 percent growth in the United States. Gateway saw a decrease of 24.53 percent in its U.S. and Founder saw its worldwide shipments go up by 22.52 percent. Finally, Lenovo saw an increase of 1.79 percent in U.S. growth and a decrease of 9.3 percent worldwide.

Desktops on the rise; iPod helping

Shipments of desktop computers for Apple accounted for 54 percent of its total PC shipments in the second quarter of 2005. By comparison, desktops accounted for 51.8 percent of total shipments in the second quarter of 2004.

“I don’t think anyone expected to see growth in desktops and not see as much comparable growth in iBooks,” IDC Analyst, David Daoud, told MacCentral. “They are definitely doing something right, but the average sell price is $1200-$1300, so it must be something other than the Mac mini.”

Daoud says that Apple’s brand recognition is definitely helping them keep their current share of the education market. Another factor keeping Apple in the game is the way it markets itself compared to what its competitors do.

“Clearly what Apple has is the name recognition in the education market and they are doing a very good job marketing it,” said Daoud. “They are very well entrenched in the teaching community — Apple’s competitors really market to the IT staff.”

One product line that IDC sees helping Apple over its competitors is the diminutive iPod MP3 player. As schools and classrooms find new and innovative ways to utilize the iPod, Daoud believes sales build up on the PC side.

“The iPod has added another dimension in Apple’s product portfolio,” said Daoud.

Henrico, Cobb County deals not hurting Apple

While Apple and the press make a big deal when the company signs large deals with school districts, there is also lots of press when those deals fail. Henrico County recently sold off all of its iBooks to a stampeding crowd, while Cobb County had to back out of its deal to due a local scandal.

Following a very limited deployment to only a few teachers in Cobb County, the rollout was halted. Former Cobb County commissioner Butch Thompson sued to stop the program, and the Georgia Superior Court judge who heard the case in July agreed with Thompson’s assertions.

What was in question, said the judge, wasn’t the merit of the program, but how the money used to pay for it was justified to taxpayers. The money used was pulled from a special sales tax ratified by Cobb County residents in 2003. That money was described as paying for upgrades to the school system’s obsolete computers, not for a laptop program on the scale that had been planned.

Cobb County superintendent of schools Joseph Redden resigned in the wake of the controversy.

Even though Apple wasn’t involved in the dealings of the school district, they were prominently mentioned in the news. Such negative publicity could have an affect on other districts, but IDC said they don’t believe that has happened.

“I’m not convinced that a deal that has gone sour is actually affecting the decision to buy Macs in another school district,” said Daoud.

What is missing in education for Apple?

While Daoud praised the work Apple has done in building its education business, he said there was still more work to be done. First, Apple needs to focus more of their time on the IT staff and explain the benefits of owning Apple products.

“They need to talk to the IT departments more about cost of ownership to make sure they are not seen as being more costly than others,” said Daoud.

Daoud also doesn’t see Apple as a company that is offering a full solution, which the other companies are doing. While Apple does have its Xserve and Xserve RAID product lines, Daoud says he sees no evidence of them being used effectively.

“They do offer a very good education solution with hardware and software,” said Daoud. “However if you have 30,000-40,000 clients you need the infrastructure to hook all of these systems together and deal with issues like growing storage needs. What I see Apple doing is selling desktops and laptops and fixing problems that come up, but it’s more complicated than that, which is why a vendor like Dell gets the attention of the IT community.”

Even with these perceived shortcomings in offering school districts a more complete solution, IDC said Apple is doing great on the client side of the business.

“From the client perspective, Apple has done a fantastic job,” said Daoud.

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