Cheryl Vedoe, Apple’s vice president of Education Products and Marketing, talked about “Empowering Higher Education: Tools for the Digital Age” in a corporate presentation at this week’s EDUCAUSE education conference in Indianapolis, IN. She spoke of how Apple was working to develop solutions for administrators, faculty members, researchers and students in higher-ed.
Vedoe reiterated Apple CEO Steve Jobs “evolution of the personal computer” theory and Apple’s focus on the digital lifestyle. The company feels that the “first age” of the personal computer was the age of productivity, in which computers were mainly used for tasks such as word processing and spreadsheet work. This was followed by the “Internet age” and now, the “digital age.”
“Some of you may think that the personal computer has reached the end of its evolutionary process and that the future lies in handheld devices, such as Palms and other personal digital assistance,” Vedoe told the EDUCAUSE audience. “But we at Apple see things a little differently. You can’t take full advantage of all the new digital devices without a personal computer.”
The digital lifestyle has been “aggressively” adopted by the younger generation and Apple will serve as the hub of this lifestyle, she said. Vedoe said that the company was empowering individuals in the areas of digital media, mobile computing, high performance computing and industry standards.
In talking about digital media, Vedoe said Apple was differentiated by its integrated “i” applications (iMovie, iTunes and iDVD) and its integration of software, base hardware and the operating system. She also showed the EDUCAUSE crowd the new iPod and talked of its possibilities beyond sheer entertainment. Books on tape might migrate to the iPod and be stored as MP3 files, she said. Or educators could put their own lectures on the iPod as audio files, Vedoe explained.
Regarding mobile computing and higher-ed, she said that the PowerBook G4 was designed to serve as a “portable supercomputer” or “professional digital media on the go,” whereas the iBook is a “compact powerhouse” that makes an “ideal digital hub for education.” When it comes to high performance computing, she said that the Power Mac G4 desktops offered power for scientific and technical applications, modeling and animation, film and video production, and design & publishing. Vedoe said that Mac OS X was already shaping up a success in higher-ed due to its position as an “open standards operating system.”
“Apple’s goal is to offer the right solution for administrators, faculty members, researchers and students, as well as the overall needs of the IT infrastructure,” she added. “For administrators, we want to support the business of education and help you in creating an environment in which the faculty and students can be most successful.”
The reality of higher-ed IT is that it involves multiple platforms, tricky software installation and maintenance, heterogeneous networks, and in-depth training. It’s a complex situation, but Apple can help reduce the complexity by “making sure our products integrate into the existing infrastructure,” Vedoe said.
“We’ll do this by focusing on open industry standards on both our hardware and software, and in the areas of open source, networking, Internet, file systems, graphics, document exchange and application development,” she added.
Part of this open industry effort is Mac OS X, which “equals Unix plus productivity,” she added. It offers a Unix terminal window and native productivity software, Vedoe said.
Apple also believes that the future of enterprise and administrative applications will be Web-based, she said. Web-based apps offer several benefits, including platform independence, no mandatory client software, lower costs for installation and support, lower bandwidth requirements and data access from any location, Vedoe said.
Apple is working with various companies to make sure that Apple fits into Web-based administration applications, she said. Over the past year the company has made real progress in this area.
PeopleSoft 8 from PeopleSoft offers full support for the Mac from a client-based client. Oracle E-Business Suite is now available for Mac OS 9.x and certification for Mac OS X is in the works. And SAP is providing Java-based connectivity to Macs.
“We’re working to make sure Macs fit in on campus in the key administrative areas,” Vedoe said.
What’s more, Apple’s own WebObjects can be used to create Web and Java applications. Vedoe said Apple has seen a movement where some higher-ed institutions are doing their own development to provide a Web-based front end for their legacy applications. For instance, the University of Southern California is using Web Objects to migrate its legacy financial and administrative apps to the Web.
When it comes to the teaching faculty, you have the power to change the lives of students as they prepare tomorrow’s professionals, Vedoe told the audience. Quoting statistics from the US Department of Labor, she noted that 45 percent of all new jobs in 2004 would be in industries that didn’t exist in recent years (similar to what happened in the areas of Web design and Web publishing). And the average US worker will have 9.2 jobs before age 34.
“Modern tools and technology need to engage and motivate, spark curiosity, encourage exploration, foster creativity, and provide ‘real world’ skills,” Vedoe said. “Students are growing up in a media rich and media stimulating world.”
Higher-ed researchers are taking advantage of the Power Mac G4 in particular, she added. According to “The Scientist” magazine, 29.4 percent of life scientists use Macs. Another reasons Macs are popular among researchers is that they can use Power Mac G4 clusters to build “supercomputers” at the fraction of the cost of a few years ago.
Of course, the student population has flocked to such Apple products as the iBook. Vedoe said that students used their computers in a variety of ways, from helping them “ace a course” to producing a campus documentary, to “numbing their mind playing a game.”