The State of Apple in Education

Sponsor: Get $50 off select mattresses by going to and using promo code: VECTOR at checkout. Some terms and conditions apply.

Rene Ritchie: Just a quick note before we start the show, as some of you may have heard, I started a video version of this podcast. Sometimes, the same show appears in video as it does in audio, but increasingly, I'm trying to differentiate the two.

I'm trying to do slightly longer form, more in-depth content on the podcast and shorter form, more visual content, obviously, on YouTube because it makes the most sense. Obviously, watch and listen, whichever one is best for you.

I would recommend checking both out. You can find the podcast, obviously you've already found it, but it is at You can check out the YouTube channel at Increasingly, there will be different stuff on both of those. I hope you enjoy it.

[background music]

Rene: Joining me today, we have Bradley Chambers. How you doing, Bradley?

Bradley Chambers: It's a great Monday morning here in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Rene: Awesome. It is a frozen [laughs] Monday morning here in Montreal.

Bradley: Chattanooga is great because we have four distinct seasons, and to me, it's the best place in the world to live. We have no state income tax. We have the fastest Internet in America. Then, we have four seasons. I used to think I'd always leave, and now, I don't think I'm ever going to leave.

Rene: We have winter and construction, so we have two seasons.


Bradley: Our Internet situation is pretty unique, actually. Back in, I guess it was in 2009, our local power company started running fiber to everywhere, mainly for their power grid so they could have a smart grid. What they did along with that is they ran a fiber-optic Internet network.

It's legally a separate company from the power company, because it's a public utility. They offer phone, Internet, and TV. The cool thing is, at my house for under 70 bucks a month, I can get gigabit Internet with no caps.

Rene: I pay 170 bucks for a meager business cable line. I think we're at about 60 percent. I'm just exaggerating, but we're about 60 percent [laughs] tax, so I don't know. The world is upside down.

Bradley: Yes, it is.

Rene: I can go to college for $5,000 a year, so that's not terrible.

Bradley: Good point. Good point.

Rene: [laughs] I wanted to talk to you about education, because Apple announced their education event. It brought a lot of attention on the area, because Apple was traditionally an education powerhouse. In the second coming of Steve Jobs, it was one of their areas of focus, but more and more...

We saw Microsoft has always been active in this space. Google's become incredibly active in this space. I wanted to get a sense of where Apple stood now in relation to things like Chromebooks and Google Docs and Windows 10S and all the other things. You've been involved in the education scene for a long time.

Bradley: Yeah, I've been managing IT at a independent school in Chattanooga since 2009. This was even pre-iPad. I got to watch that whole market emerge.

If you go back to when Steve came back and Apple began to take off in education, because that was for their computers, their laptops and desktops, that's where they took off even earlier than they did in the consumer world. It was a lot to do with the creative suite that came with it. iLife being bundled in was huge back in the day.

Then over time, if you remember back when Windows XP was a dumpster fire with viruses and security, that was another hard selling point for Macs in the education world was like, "Hey, yeah, they're a little bit more expensive than your traditional PC, PCs, but they're a lot more secure. They're easier to maintain, and they last longer."

That was generally true. We deployed, gosh, back in '09, the 2008 Macbook. That was a good machine at the time. We've since moved on to deploying Macbook Airs and are still doing that to this day along with iPads. I was talking with a friend last night. We were talking about the role of iPad and Chromebook and Macbook Airs and things like that in education.

Thinking back to when the iPad was first announced in 2010 and we saw the $500 price point, that was amazing for what it did. You were comparing that to laptop prices. You've got a $999 Macbook and then a $499 iPad. That, from a price-point perspective, was great. What's happened since then is now you're no longer comparing the iPad to a laptop.

You're comparing it to a Chromebook. It's not as compelling of a price point at that point. Obviously, Apple has driven down the cost of the iPad. There's the fifth generation iPad, which you probably would assume is not long for this world, knowing the event that's coming up.

Schools can buy that for $299. Of course, you can generally buy it on sale at retail stores for that as well. Chromebooks, the cheap ones which I don't recommend buying, they can be as cheap as $150, $200. You think about that price point and then realize that the Apple Smart Keyboard is $150.

You start thinking, "OK, so the iPad now, just a stand-alone device, without a case, without a keyboard, without any management fees, without any apps, is still more expensive than a generally pretty capable Chromebook."

That's the problem now is even though the iPad's gotten cheaper, Chromebooks now are really compelling for their price point. From a hardware perspective, yes, they're not the fastest in the world but they're capable machines because you're not asking them to do a lot.

Rene: Yeah, it's like a total cost of operations when total cost of ownership, when you're looking at it from a mass deployment point of view, right, where you have to you said, you could buy the Chromebook and be pretty much good to go, because the entire suite is based on Chrome and runs within the confines of that device, and you need very few, if any, peripherals, where with an iPad, you have to get the iPad.

You probably going to get the keyboard, and then you might need to get dongles, [laughs] mass scale dongles, in order to use them with other devices like HDMI out or whatever else you might want to use with them. Then that price just goes creeping up.

Bradley: Yeah. I wrote a blog that came out on over the weekend, looking at like the best laptops for schools, and when you're buying a single MacBook Pro, and you have to buy an HDMI dongle for $69, that's annoying. When you're buying like a hundred laptops or a thousand laptops, that's a lot of money.

One thing to do, we really should mention when we look at iPads or just Chromebooks, it's not just hardware to hardware. It's services to services. G Suite is Google's school management, email, contacts and counter system. It is free to schools, and it's very, very, very good. This is what was formerly known as Google Apps and we've been running it since 2010.

They give us unlimited Google Drive space. It's not even like a fake unlimited. I got a user with about eight terabytes on there.

Rene: [laughs]

Bradley: It's really transformed how we operate. I mean we still put Office on some of our laptops, but I don't see us doing that for much longer, because our de facto place now is in Google Docs and Google spreadsheets and Google slides. That's the de facto place that most of our teachers work in now because it hooks in to our identity management system.

When a teacher's hired, the first thing I do for them is create them an email address inside of G Suite. If I wanted to deploy them a Chromebook, there's nothing else to do. I just would hand them a Chromebook that was already enrolled in our domain.

There's nothing to configure it. It would just be there. Apple doesn't have a system like that. They don't have a way for you to say, "Hey, we want to use iCloud for our school email address and for our main school accounts." I think that's their single biggest problem right now, going forward, is even the school that is all in on Apple, is probably still going to have at least either G Suite or Exchange 365.

I think that's a real blind spot in their deployment practices, because you're still going to have like that account and then if you say, "Hey, we want to do an iCloud account for our teachers, OK." They say, "I have a system where we have these managed Apple IDs that you can create for students and teachers that you can really give a lot more control over, like you can reset the passwords," but they don't do email.

That is just essentially another account teachers have to manage. This is bringing really no value to the teachers outside of some Apple licensing. You don't really have to have that. That's a really weak spot for them right now.

Rene: The cost, to just start highly on to the cost argument, the management has been a struggle for traditional operating systems in enterprise and then education and government for a long time, because you had to maintain them in these traditional moth operating system census which was updates, security patches.

They have software to roll them back every day if you wanted that to happen so that like you open the computer and it's intentionally a clean version of the OS again every day. All of that was tremendous management where Google by virtue of its web based towards Chrome based operating system is essentially always a clean slate, if that's what you want.

Rene: Yeah, absolutely. Now, Apple has really enhanced their mobile device management APIs in a number of years, and how you deploy say iPads today is so much easier than it was even three or four years ago. I can deploy a hundred iPads with essentially the same amount of effort I can a thousand. I can install apps over the Air.

Like if a teacher came to me and said, "Hey, we want this app on 30 iPads," I can do that in about two minutes. That's come a long way. The problem is, is that management is not free, and even for a lot of schools if they're on a limited budget that can be a debilitating cost. Apple has no really free way to do that.

They don't offer their own management systems so they have APIs that different third party companies can kind of work with. Now, we use JAM software at our school, and that's a popular one for schools. They're really focused all in on Apple, but it's not free.

If you're looking at an iPad that's already more expensive than a Chromebook, on top of needing to say, if you need to buy a case or an extra keyboard you have that cost, and then you add the management cost on top of that, that becomes pretty expensive.

On the flipside, the G Suite management, it's been a couple of years since I've deployed a Chrome OS device, but I think it was 30 bucks for five years or $30 for three years. It was something like really cheap cost. It was all web-based. It was all through Google.

Google, there's no third-party...from my understanding, Chromebook manages the system. It's all through Google. A teacher can go and sign in to any of our Chromebook or any Chromebox desktop, sign in with their email account, and all their stuff's there.

Apple just doesn't have a system that's really that simple. Like you said, it comes back to it, because Chrome was web first, and that was how it always was, where on the Mac and the iPad, these were local devices first.

Rene: Absolutely. I think that's the trouble with...Times change, and things move, and the iPad and iOS are much more mainstream, much more consumer-friendly version of an operating system, but they're still intentionally one-to-one devices.

You have a personal iPad and there's no abstraction layer on top of that where, for example, we've been talking about iCloud accounts for a long time or iCloud user accounts, where I should be able to go to an iPad and log in with my iCloud ID, and it would be my iPad.

Then I should be able to give it to you, and you should be able to log in with your iCloud ID, and it should become your iPad. I know there's a lot to manage with mass storage on the device, and it's not as simple, because Apple doesn't have the same infrastructure. iCloud Drive is getting there, but it's not Google Docs, or OneDrive, or anything yet.

That whole layer of independent hardware from independent users still seems to be missing.

Bradley: It's a good example the way I think about this, is if I have two students bring me two broken devices. One's a Chromebook and one's an iPad. If I hand that student a working Chromebook, they're on their way. They sign back in, all their stuff is there.

From an iPad perspective, that's a more difficult restore, because you've got to restore from an iCloud backup. Here's another problem you've got too for these managed Apple IDs, is there is no way to upgrade the storage.

You're locked at five gigs regardless of how much money you want to pay. The user can't pay for it, and me, as the sys admin, cannot even pay for it. That was a problem three years ago and it's a problem today. You ask yourself, what's a student supposed to do? You know what most students end up doing? Storing their data in Google Drive, because it's unlimited.

I don't want to say this is all negative, because looking from where the iPad came in 2010 from how you deployed it then, at the time, you had to plug up an iPad to iTunes to do that. I had a kit that allowed me to sync 15 iPads and iPod Touches at a time.

If you think iTunes is slow now, you're talking about when you're trying to do those kinds of tasks, it would take forever. It's a whole lot easier. I can push out updates over-the-air. I can install apps over-the-air. I can make policy changes over-the-air. All that works really, really well, but it's not as seamless of an experience as a Chromebook.

Rene: You mentioned Google G Suite, which they call it now. I've been using Google Apps and Gmail for a long time. I have my work. My work account is a Google account, a paid Google account. We have Google Apps, G Suite with that, and then I have an old personal Gmail account that has access to the same stuff.

It is a web-first solution. You log into an interface that is constantly updated. You don't have to worry about patches, or downloading binary blobs, or anything like that. You compare and contrast that with iWork, which has come a long way.

Apple redesigned it famously, grafted the iOS engine into it to increase compatibility, rebuilt the feature set. They've got or iWork in the iCloud now. It's [laughs] pretty, but I think it's not as encompassing or as functional. Even with the new features that let you collaborate, it's not as encompassing or as functional as G Suite yet.

Bradley: If you get me an iPad and said, "What would you rather work on, Pages or Google Docs?" I probably would prefer Pages. The issue is so much of our work now is collaboration. If I have a user that says, "I want to share somebody's Pages doc," they got to figure out what's your Apple ID. Is it your email address? Is it your work email? Are you using a personal account?

With G Suite, you don't have that problem. The issue for Apple too on the iPad is the Google Apps are terrible. You wonder sometimes, is this by intention on Google, they purposely don't make them that great, and so you almost want to use Chrome on the desktop? I don't know.

It's not really Apple's fault, but it is their problem, because that has become a de facto way people communicate. On the flipside, if I have a teacher that comes to me and says, "I want something to help reinforce place value on math," if I have a Chromebook, that's a harder thing to find.

I'm searching for some random website that can help reinforce that, maybe with some game, just some activities. On the iPad, that's a whole lot easier. On one hand, the app experience on the iPad, there is so much more content that's geared towards schools.

Apple does have a leg up there because on Chromebook, you're just relying on various websites. It's not all negative for Apple, but I think Apple's problem is easier to fix in some ways than Google's is, because Google is not necessarily going to start building an ecosystem of education interfaces that work well on Chromebook. You're basically relying on the open Web.

Both of these companies have problems going forward in schools, and I think Apple's is easier to solve, but I don't know that they're willing to do that, because we've had these problems for a number of years, going back to identify management, going back to the overall cost of the ecosystem.

You sometimes wonder if Apple's margins are their own worst enemy.

[background music]

Rene: This is all incredibly important, because education is so fundamentally important. What is also important is sleep. We spend about a third of our lives -- we should be spending about a third of our lives -- getting the rest that we need in order to better function for the other two thirds of our lives.

There is very little that I've found that has helped me personally with getting better sleep than Casper. Casper makes mattresses. They make pillows. They make sheets. They make some of the best darn mattresses, and pillows, and sheets that you have ever tried.

They are made to mimic the human curves to provide support and comfort for all different kinds of people, and all different shapes, and all different sizes. That's critically important because, if you're not supported, then your body has to tense up, and your muscles have to tense up and support your weight.

If you're sinking too far into your mattress, your whole system has to spend all of its time and energy into keeping you in relative alignment. That is the opposite of sleep. That's the opposite of restful and restorative. That's incredibly wasteful.

You want something that's comfortable, yes, but also that's supportive. That's exactly what Casper produces. The original mattress combines multiple supportive memory foams for quality sleep service with just the right amount of both sink and balance.

They have both that classic Casper mattress, and now they have a new one. They have an essential one that's even more accessible, more available, lower price for everybody. If you know that you love this technology, and you just want more of it, if you want a premium support system that takes it to the next level, they have the Wave now as well.

All of them are way better than buying at a store where you have middlemen, and you have paid placement, and you have all the rigmarole that comes with having to go out and buy a mattress. In this case, with Casper, you just contact them. You order directly. You have all the savings, and it ships right to your door.

There's free shipping and returns in both the US and Canada. That return is really important, because you can be sure if you purchase with Casper's, 100-night, risk-free, sleep-on-it trial.

You don't have to take anybody's word for it. Not my word for it, not theirs, not any other podcast you might have heard it. You can get in your house and try it out, and if it doesn't improve your sleep the way it has improved mine or other people's, you can just send it back.

I've heard from people who have sent it back -- not very many -- but if anything happens and you want to send it back, you don't have to worry about it. I think you're going to want to keep it, because it does provide a fantastic sleep experience.

It is one of the few purchases I made when I moved into my new studio that wasn't directly related to the equipment that I needed for that studio, because I realized that getting good quality sleep was essential for me to be able to do everything that I needed to do when I brought this show, for example, to video, and when I've been doing all these other things with it.

You can get $50 towards select mattresses by visiting and using the promo code vector at checkout. There are some terms and conditions that apply, but it's that simple. Go to, save 50 bucks on select mattresses by using vector at checkout. I think you'll love it.

Thanks so much, Casper, and thanks so much to all of you. Another repeat sponsor because you folks are just so good at supporting both the sponsors and the show. Thank you.

[background music]

Rene: My favorite cliché is that your biggest strength is your biggest weakness. Apple's culture is both their biggest strength and their biggest weakness, because when they have that Eye of Sauron on a product, they can make a terrific end-to-end user experience, but when they don't, it's all alone, naked, and dark.

I don't know who at Apple is in charge of making sure that the education experience in the classroom, end-to-end from device purchase, to enrolment, to identity management, to user account management, to Office Suite, to collaboration and sharing is just a fantastic experience every day.

When it seems like you don't have those product leads, where you have on iPhone or iPad, whatever the service or device is just seems to flounder.

Bradley: It's interesting. I often wonder what does Apple use for their own internal mail at Apple? They're clearly not using the legacy macOS server, but you know Google is running G Suite for their own corporate email.

To me, there's a difference in mindsets in the companies. For all the things Apple wants to control, say, on the supply chain, why would they not want to own the entire software, backend services, hardware experience for the end users?

If you want to go down the privacy rabbit-hole, Apple seems to be very, very concerned about users' privacy. Why are they not building a solution to keeps schools from having to use G Suite? We have way more controls on ads, like our account social ads and their email, for example. We have a lot more control over that.

Why would they not build a solution to keep everybody in the Apple family? Let's say, for example, you have a student that is in sixth grade right now, and they go to a school with Chromebooks. They're going to be using Google properties for the next six years at least.

What do you think, when they get out of school, what are they used to? They're used to Chrome. They're used to all the Google services. What are they going to use when they go buy something personal? They're very likely to buy an Android phone or a Chromebook for their personal use.

That's how Apple got started. These kids were using Macs in schools and iPads in schools, and they came out, and it's, "I've used that in school for years."

Rene: That was their playbook.

Bradley: Yeah. It's like Google's now doing that well. Chrome devices are doing very well in schools. Does Google make a lot of money on the hardware? I'm sure they don't, but kids are getting used to the Google ecosystem at a very, very young age.

Rene: It's something that was of a great concern to me. I Tweeted about it over the weekend. My godson, his school switched over to Chromebooks, and they all got their own Google account. He brought his home, and he logged in on his old MacBook. Immediately it said, "Share location and you can play Pac-Man on your street."

All you had to do was click a little button, and then he could take the Pac-Man and go "Waka, waka, waka, waka" down his street, eating all the houses. He was just giggling and laughing, and he thought it was fantastic.

Google just got him to log into his account, and share his location, and tie whatever he was doing in school in a protected environment into a relatively unprotected environment at home.

Their whole goal is, like Facebook, to build these entire graphs and accumulate and horde as much data as possible, and then now tie -- I forget whether he was in grade one or grade two at the time -- all of that in together.

It's not my personal preference. I have a lot of issues with it. If that is the model of paying with data and attention, is better for you than paying with money or time, I think that's fine, but I really want a different option in the market for people who do care deeply about privacy, and don't like the idea.

I remember that famous Google Super Bowl commercial where they were trying to encourage people to create Gmail accounts for their babies, so that they can start accumulating data at the beginning. People had such a negative reaction, they pulled the ad. I think we're desensitizing to that a bit.

Bradley: What solution does Apple offer businesses and schools if they want to get all in on Apple? They just don't have a solution. It's not that their solution isn't free. It probably should be free. If they really want to grow with schools, and they want the kids using Apple products at a young age, they need to make it easy for IT administrators to manage all this infrastructure.

They have their tool called Apple School Manager that allows you to connect these managed Apple IDs with your school management system. The fundamental thing we all have is an email address. I love tools like Slack, and iMessage, and Twitter, but at the end of the day, email is the hook for all these things.

Apple does not have a way for schools and businesses to go all in on iCloud for those kinds of things. Will they ever? I don't know. The problem now is that if they launched it, say, next week, how are you going to convince schools that have been using G Suite for eight years to switch over?

Rene: Your biggest play at first is retention or retaining those schools that are considering moving over to G Suite but haven't yet, and then a slow growth strategy from there. That maybe hits a lot of this on the education event.

The rumors are we'll get a next generation of the really cheap iPad, the 9.7 inch, which right now is roughly analogous to an iPad Air one-and-a-half. It's in between the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2.

Apple can maybe push that price a little lower, maybe add things like Pencil support, but then you're increasing cost if you expect schools or any large-scale deployment to have Apple Pencils as well.

Also, a MacBook Air that's updated, that has Retina display, that has modern components. That might be slightly less expensive, maybe pushed down from $1,000 to $899 or $799.

As much as Google subsidizes all of the stuff that they offer for free with the data acquisition that they get from it, it's unclear to me that Apple can maintain the margins that they have, get the volume of sales they need in order to subsidize the services they'd have to provide to go along with it.

Bradley: The MacBook Air, I know people in the tech community think, "Why would anybody still buy this? There's no Retina screen. It's old hardware." I'll tell you, if someone says to me, "What computer do I buy today that I want to last forever?" I'll tell them the MacBook Air.

It's got multiple USB A ports. It's got Mac Safe. It's got Thunderbolt 2. It's dependable hardware, has a dependable keyboard. Tell me why that's not a great computer.

No, it doesn't have a Retina screen, but I'll tell you, I love Retina. I've got a 2015 Retina MacBook Pro, but if I set it down in front of one of our teachers and I said, "Do you think my screen is better than yours?" they would all say maybe, but not a whole lot.

When you're looking at these volume deployments, you have $100 here, and a $69 adapter there really adds up. I'm a big fan of the MacBook Air. We still deploy it today. I had to recently deploy one of the, I guess, 2017 MacBook Pros.

It pained me to have to deploy it because it was dongle city tangle, make all these things work. I bought AppleCare on it. We generally don't buy AppleCare on most of our devices. We're buying so many, it's easier to in some way to self-insure and keep budget money aside for repairs.

I said, "You know what? This thing will be going into service. I know it'll at least in the next year have the keyboard repaired." Me being in IT, durability of hardware is my number one concern. I cannot afford to have users out of commission for a week when I've sent this off to the depot.

Rene: Absolutely. You have to address both the -- what's the right word for it -- economy of scale for the hardware, and then you have to have that layer of services on top of it.

If you think about it, end-to-end, you've got to be able to buy the iPad or the MacBook Air, because I think those are the two primary products that they'll target to education. Maybe a little in iMac, but I think that's becoming increasingly rare.

Bradley: One of the big problems that I think the iPad has is mobile Safari. When the iPhone launched, Safari was the crown jewel. It was a full web browser in a mobile device, and it was amazing.

The problem is as we've gone forward in 2018, the web is still king for a lot of services and a lot of how we interact with our data. Yes, there are a lot of apps for things, but Safari on the iPad, there's just some things you can't do. You can't often force websites to show you the desktop version to see all you need to see.

One of the things I would love to see is a desktop mode for Safari on the iPad, where it would literally force it in desktop mode. Give me some sort of cursor where I can manage, interact with my data.

Even things like working with WordPress and backing websites, Squarespace websites, that can still be a real pain on the iPad.

Rene: Absolutely. It's ironic [laughs] because when Steve Jobs first introduced mobile Safari, he said it's not the baby Internet. It's the real Internet. People selectively target it, and they want to feed you even ridiculous iPhone versions of websites because it detects Safari, something that said present as and gave the browser ID for regular Safari and gave you the actual web.

It's all ironic, but that's something that we need now in 2018.

Bradley: Apps have come a long way, but there is still so many things that apps can't do. I know some of our core apps -- I should say our core services -- are moving away from apps and more back to a Safari interface.

On one hand, it's frustrating, but I understand that these companies, they're having to target Chromebooks and iPads, instead of they can make one web interface that works on both of them. I can't blame them in a way. That goes back to it's not Apple's fault, but it's their problem.

Rene: Yeah, that's the holy grail we've been searching for all those years of ActiveX, not ActiveX, but Java, and Adobe Air, and now Electron apps, is that write once, deploy everywhere code that's not always great for the individual.

As much as that matters in the consumer space, it doesn't matter as much in business space where they just want to...I guess education space, they just want to deploy their tools.

Bradley: Right and they just want to work, even if it's not the best overall experience. This website we have, it does work. Sometimes rotation bugs get in the way, but overall, it works. I can't say that if I was a product manager for that company with a limited budget, I can't say that I would not make the same call.

Given that Chromebooks are so popular, and they are. Money talks, and you've only got so many resources to work with.

Rene: Getting back to identity, I understand that Google is way ahead when it comes to identity, and Facebook wants to play in there too, and so do other companies. I'm still frustrated by all of this. We've talked before. If you have an Apple ID and you change your password, God help you, because almost every service is going to bother you, from FaceTime, to iMessage, to App Store.

Sometimes, you have legacy iTunes accounts, and your iCloud account isn't the same as your iTunes account. There's no really good, unified way to manage all of that. On Google, I have a personal Google account that's tied to my YouTube account. I have a business Google account. Depending on which one I sign into first, I can or can't access different Google Docs.

[inaudible 31:31] click on a doc and say, "You can't access this. Do you want to sign out of this account and sign back into that account?" I'll be in the middle of a Hangout, even a live Hangout, and they'll log me out and say you need to authenticate because whatever internal timer they're doing doesn't bother to test for what you're actually busy with when it decides to tell you to log in again and go through it all.

To go to quote you, it seems like there's a lot of things that aren't their fault, because they're dealing with all these legacy systems and legacy implementations, but it's their problem, because it's still way too complicated for any normal human to deal with.

Bradley: This is, I think, one of the biggest problems that students have today, is they're drowning in logins. It's not even just, say, multiple Google logins. It's logins for every service.

I use 1Password and love it, but I can't deploy that to all of our faculty and students and really manage that well. Ideally for me, for example, any app that we want to deploy would just work with Google. It would work with a Google login. You could authenticate it with your directory, and that would just work.

What I spend my August doing, for example, right before school starts, is we have about five or six core services that we use. Obviously, Google is one of the primary ones. Our student management system is a tool called RenWeb.

It's where all our student data is. That's where all of our grades are. That's where parents can see the report cards. That's where when you got to reenroll your students, that's where you do it, and you set up your tuition plan.

Every August, I take various exports of that data, convert it into a CSV, and have to upload it elsewhere, and then create logins and passwords, say, for our digital math curriculum, our reading program.

Students end up with about five or six logins, and because they have five or six, and they're nine-year-olds, I can't really make them super complicated, so we end up with a normal scheme, which is not good for data security. What am I supposed to do? Sometimes, adults can't remember 10 passwords. How do I expect nine-year-old to do it?

Ideally, going back in time, we would have picked one education authentication mechanism, and everything would work through that, whether it be Google, whether it be iCloud, whether it be something. The problem is everybody wants to be the king. No one wants to be reliant on Google or be reliant on this company.

Looking back, the strategic mistake that I think Apple made was made before the iPhone. They owned a product called PowerSchool, which was -- it still is -- a popular student information system. It's a competitor to RenWeb. Another one is Blackboard. There's these various companies that do that.

These are the center for a lot of schools. Apple owned it. I think they bought it from somebody in 2001, 2002, and then sold it 2006. They're still in the market, and still very popular. You wonder how would things be different if they owned that tool?

If they had that, then they had an iCloud for schools, you could be end-to-end, all in with one company, from your email system, from your contact system, from your documents, to your student information system, to how you manage your school finances. You could be all in on one company. That would be really, really attractive.

Rene: There's this famous saying from Steve Jobs, where he was sitting in his office and talking -- I think it was to Phil Schiller or somebody -- and he said, "Yeah, yeah, we could do that, and we'd make a few million dollars off of it, but is it really another business that we want to get into?"

I quote it because it reflects Apple's focus where there are always a thousand things that they can do, but they can't do all of them well, so they say no to a lot of them. That's fine. When Apple says yes to a product and goes all in on it, they have really good results. When they say no to a product and don't get into it, it's fine because there's nothing in the field that's wishy-washy.

It's when they're half-half in a product, like something has been announced, and it hasn't been maintained for many years, or they put feelers out, or elements of a product and never finished it, that we get into that Mr. Miyagi karate do, karate don't squash-like grape scenario where you have these partial solutions.

They were doing iCloud authentication for some things, but there's no real iCloud authentication where there is log in with your Google account, or log in with your Facebook account, or login with your Twitter account.

I don't think they have anything similar to OAuth where you could authenticate other apps or other services just using your iCloud ID. Obviously, I've never seen it in the wild. I forget exactly what they announced for developers a couple of years ago, but I've never really seen it in the wild.

That seems like a glaring hole in being able to use Apple to manage your identity and manage your logins.

Bradley: You think about it, if I'm a school that has iPads and G Suite, what is easier to replace, my email or my devices? It's always easier to replace the devices. I get Apple's focus on only getting in the businesses they can make a real impact on.

With things like the student management systems and things like email management, I think they could make a real impact in schools with that. All that does is exist is to sell iPads. If you're a school that that let's say Apple never sold PowerSchool. Let's say your school uses PowerSchool, that uses a mythical iCloud for schools system, you're deploying Macs and iPads for the foreseeable future.

You're not going to up in that for Microsoft Surfaces or Chromebooks. You're all in. You'd have to move all of your student data out. You have to move all your tuition payments to another system.

In my mind, I'm looking for seamless integrations. For example, the company that manages our tuition payments for parents, they bought RenWeb. They're one company now. That's very attractive to me, because that's one less system to log into.

That's what I'm looking for going forward, is I'm not necessarily getting to hire more people help me in the one-man shop. I need services to work for me. A service like G Suite, I feel like it works for me. A service like Apple School Manager, they don't really do a whole lot for me.

There's no seamless integration with the rest of my school. It's just another system. I think that is their number one problem going forward, is it's easier to replace the Apple parts to your school than it is to replace the Google parts to your school.

Rene: That's very profound. As we move forward, Apple is doing their education event on March 27th in Chicago, what would you like to hear from them? What would you like to hear in terms of devices, in terms of software, in terms of services? What would really start to turn it around for you?

Bradley: I'm excited about that event. I'll be there with 9to5Mac. I'm really looking forward to the event. I honestly have no idea what they're going to announce. Part of me hopes that there is...It's going to be an overarching, long-term play, but do something big on services and user accounts for schools.

As much as I do want a lower-cost MacBook Air, a$999 MacBook Air or an $899 MacBook Air, that's not necessarily changing things for a lot of schools. Even if you've got, say, an iPad down to $279.99, $10 here and there aren't necessarily the problems. The problems are your overall cost of ownership for an iPad deployment versus, say, a Chromebook.

There's a part of me that hopes they say, "Hey, guys. We're working on this new product, a new ecosystem for you to manage all your school data with iCloud where we're going to try to offer a privacy-focused solution for your students to manage their data." That would be great.

I don't know that they'll do that. I imagine what we'll see is a sixth generation iPad and a revised MacBook Air, but who knows?

It's not that Apple is falling apart in schools and they're not selling devices to school. Obviously, we're still buying iPads. We're still buying laptops, but if they want to see really big growth, I think they need to make some big bets on the education market with services.

Rene: You're absolutely right. I think Apple has to do what Apple does best, and that is tell a really great story, provide an incredibly differentiated experience that could only really come from Apple, because they can offer end-to-end it all, from the silicon all the way up to the client-side app on the server and make something really compelling.

I don't think that's something they can roll out overnight, but I think there's concrete steps that they could take towards making that a reality.

Yeah, it does include lower cost, updated devices, but it also includes things like what you said, like having an identity email account solution that really does scale across schools, and management services that lets you deploy on iPad as easily as you would, even if it's not a web-based device, as easily as you would a Web-based device.

That's a slow process, but I think it's a worthwhile investment, as much as investing micro LED for the future of iPhone and Apple Watch, investing in the technologies that would let consumers really get in touch with Apple at a very early age and see the advantages that Apple offers.

Both in terms of user experience, but also in terms of user respect with things like privacy and security, where you don't really have to trade your attention or your data in order to have a subsidized OK-ish user experience. That could be really compelling.

I think Apple cares deeply about education. I just think they have to be realistic about doing it end-to-end and not doing it piecemeal.

Bradley: Long gone are the days they can just put out low-cost iPads and expect schools to deploy then en masse. They've got to have a more compelling story than that.

Rene: Thank you so much for your time, Bradley. If people want to find you, if people want to read your articles, people want to listen to you, where can they go?

Bradley: My blog is, and I'm on Twitter. It's @bradleychambers. I've got a weekly column on 9to5Mac called "Making the Grade." We have an article that comes out every Saturday, something new in Apple and education, trying to bring a different perspective to it than, say, the normal consumer stuff.

I'm always thinking about things that scale. When you think about things that scale, it really gives you a new perspective. I'd love to connect with any of the listeners. It's on the Web.

Rene: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. You can reach me @reneritchie on Twitter or I'm going to be bringing some feedback portion.

I'm experimenting a little bit with the layout of the show, on the segments in the show, so that I can feature more of your questions, more of your comments, more of your corrections, frankly.

If you have feedback for the show, please make sure you send it my way, and I'll include it in a future show. Thanks so much.


○ Video: YouTube
○ Podcast: Apple | Overcast | Pocket Casts | RSS
○ Column: iMore | RSS
○ Social: Twitter | Instagram

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.