The Antipad, Part 1

iPads are selling like cheeseburgers. Apple reports over 100 million sold since March 2010.

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The iPad is so alluring that otherwise reasonable people camp outside stores to buy the latest model.

Thieves in New York City steal so many iPads that officials recently blamed an increased crime rate on the demand for Apple products.

Educators are dazzled by the iPad’s considerable charms, too.

Education conference sessions with ‘iPad’ in the title are standing-room only. Bloggers are publishing long lists of ‘essential’ iPad apps for instruction.

School officials coast-to-coast are practically shouting at Apple to ‘Shut up and take our money!’ Two examples: San Diego Unified School District recently bought 26,000 iPads, and Auburn, Maine schools plan to equip all elementary kids with iPads.

One seldom hears a discouraging word. Web searches of ‘iPads + education’ produce a landslide of enthusiastic, uncritical descriptions of iPad purchases and roll-outs.

So buying iPads for schools is certainly a popular idea – but let’s consider if it is sensible.

Since most school districts are not richly-funded, we need to talk budget, because the iPad is a premium-priced item.

I say the iPad is premium-priced because it is the most expensive tablet on the market. And just about everyone agrees on this bottom line: Apple stuff costs more. Industry experts will vigorously debate whether or not the ‘Apple tax’ is a good value, but few objective sources dispute its existence.

So purchasing iPads – especially for large scale initiatives – is spending big money on high-end gear that you might call luxury items.

First World Problem

You might call the iPad a luxury item because it is usually the owner’s second or third device. I challenge you to find an iPad buyer who does not already own a computer or a smartphone. I then challenge you to find an iPad buyer who gave up their computer or smartphone after buying an iPad. Having a connected device? Essential. Having two or more? Luxury.

The computer remains the primary, go-to device in the world’s workplaces and classrooms, and it likely will be for some time. When it’s time to produce content, do you reach for a tablet, or do you scoot up to a computer? If you launched a new business today, what would you put on every employee’s desk? What do we buy first for our college-bound kids?

The iPad is a brilliant, sophisticated, and elegant tablet designed for high mobility. But a thrifty school district needing the single most useful device for the greatest number of students at the best possible price would do well to consider other options.

To be continued…