WSJ: Apple Plans to Woo Schools, Colleges

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2002, 09:00
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Apple Computer Inc., moving to defend its position in the education market, is unveiling its first personal computer designed exclusively for schools and colleges.

The computer maker is introducing a white one-piece desktop machine called the eMac, priced from $999 to $1,999, that resembles the original iMac introduced in 1998. The new machine is designed to woo educators that are being courted with low-price PCs that run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. Dell Computer Inc. has been particularly aggressive and last year surpassed Apple in shipments of desktop machines for education, according to some market researchers.


Apple Plans to Woo Schools, Colleges With eMac, Modeled on Early iMacs

By DON CLARK

Apple Computer Inc., moving to defend its position in the education market, is unveiling its first personal computer designed exclusively for schools and colleges.

The computer maker is introducing a white one-piece desktop machine called the eMac, priced from $999 to $1,999, that resembles the original iMac introduced in 1998. The new machine is designed to woo educators that are being courted with low-price PCs that run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. Dell Computer Inc. has been particularly aggressive and last year surpassed Apple in shipments of desktop machines for education, according to some market researchers.

Apple, a pioneer in education, built an early lead in the market in the 1980s with its original Apple 2 and Macintosh systems, and still has the largest installed base in schools.

Apple’s education-centric eMac

But Dell has been targeting the market with systems that are considerably more powerful than the original iMac but cost as little as $600 excluding monitor, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group, a market-research firm. At the same time, school districts have been hiring technology managers from corporations where Windows machines are the norm, making it harder to sell Macintoshes — especially when the price difference was dramatic.

”Apple was losing a lot of bids” for large sales to school districts, Mr. Enderle said.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, acknowledged the pressure, but predicted the eMac would help shift the momentum. It is arriving in time for Apple’s education sales force to pitch it over the crucial summer selling season, he noted. Though most consumers won’t be able to buy eMacs, teachers will be allowed to buy them for home use, he said.

Apple’s need to counterattack is forcing a tactical reversal of sorts. The Cupertino, Calif., company has been moving away from conventional cathode ray tubes as monitors, opting instead for flat liquid crystal displays, or LCDs. But the new eMac employs CRTs.

Though Apple still sells a $799 iMac built around a CRT, that low-powered machine has largely been eclipsed by the new iMac introduced in January, which features an LCD attached by a movable arm to a snowball-shaped base. For its modular PowerMac series of desktop systems, Apple has stopped selling CRTs altogether.

But prices have been rising in the LCD market, and Apple bumped up the new iMac’s entry-level price by $100 in March to $1,399.

Mr. Jobs said LCDs were judged too expensive by cost-conscious educators. But they wanted more speed and a larger screen while retaining iMac’s one-piece design, which saves space and avoids a tangle of wires.

The eMac uses a 17-inch CRT — compared with 15 inches for the original iMac — but Apple’s engineers managed to make the system slightly shorter from front to back. The screen also is flatter and easier to read, and the built-in speakers and sound circuitry have been improved.

Outside the education market, Apple is upgrading its high-end laptop computer to add a sharper display. The company’s Titanium PowerBook system was known for one of the biggest display screens among portables.

Now, Apple has made the 15.2-inch screen brighter and improved its resolution, adding 23% more of the dots, called pixels, that are used to render images and text. Other new features include a faster microprocessor chip. It comes in models priced between $2,499 and $3,199, making it a couple hundred dollars more expensive than existing models.

Though Apple’s hardware remains more expensive than some rivals’, the company retains a large following among graphic artists and other professionals whose productivity can be improved by larger and clearer displays. Apple is introducing a $149 adapter to make it easier for the Titanium notebook or a Power Mac desktop system to connect to an extra flat-panel display.

The device can be used so that two displays show the same image simultaneously, or work essentially like one large screen. For example, a user could put elements such as photos on one screen and a palette of tools on the other, greatly expanding the amount of work space, Mr. Jobs said.

Write to Don Clark at don.clark@wsj.com

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