Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his publishing empire, News Corp, used to be strong believers in Apple’s iPad and its digital publishing prowess, so much so that he greenlit a substantial investment in The Daily, an iPad-exclusive magazine.

Apple and News Corp had worked side-by-side to develop The Daily, having launched the app on February 2, 2011 during a lavish press conference at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Apple’s online services head Eddy Cue joined Rupert Murdoch on stage, who publicly praised Apple for being “a highly disciplined company that makes beautiful products”, attributing late co-founder Steve Jobs with having “such power inspiring the people around him.”

But after slashing staff by a third last summer, News Corp soon pulled the plug on the project. Enter 2013: News Corp’s education division called Amplify Wednesday announced it is launching its own Android tablet mean to compete with Apple’s iPad in education…

The Amplify Tablet, as they’re calling it, is manufactured by Asus, has a ten-inch screen and is being targeted at middle-school children. It comes preloaded with educational content and applications and kids will be able to take it home and play games on it.

The New York Times has more:

An early look at the Amplify tablet revealed a sleek touch screen with material floating against a simple background. If a child’s attention wanders, a stern “eyes on teacher” prompt pops up. A quiz uses emoticons of smiley and sad faces so teachers can instantly gauge which students understand the lesson and which need help.

The project is being headed by Amplify’s CEO and former chancellor of New York City schools and News Corporation’s education division, Joel I. Klein.

According to a media release, Amplify tablets purchased by June 30 will be ready for use in classrooms in time for the start of the 2013-2014 school year. They estimate the project will contribute 40 percent of the division’s revenue in the long run, while the Amplify’s curriculum (including video games) accounting for another 40 percent.

Here’s another heartwarming video.

Per usual, undertakings that depend on taypayers’ money have to be inexpensive.

An entry-level Amplify Tablet preloaded with training courses for educations and including customer care will start $299, along with a two-year subscription for $99 a year. A higher-end Amplify Tablet Plus, meant for students who don’t have wireless access at home, will include a 4G data plan and cost $349.

Apple’s iPad mini starts at $329, though the company offers an education discount of 10-pack iPad minis.

Now, K-12s have been snapping iPads left and right, with Apple recently confirming sales of eight million iPads to education institutions worldwide, 4.5 million units to U.S. education institutions.

Apple during a 2013 third-quarter conference call said iPad 2 sales into the K-12 market doubled year-over-year after it had reduced its price by a hundred bucks, down to $399.

Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft and other vendors are also pushing their own tablets into the classroom. Apple’s distinct advantage is the ecosystem: as of January 2012, the App Store had 20,000+ education and learning apps designed specifically for iPads.

While there’s nothing wrong in a media conglomerate attempting to crack the education market, I’m not sure this is a step in the right direction for News Corp.

I mean, with plummeting ad sales, the phone hacking scandal and shuttered newspapers, I’m sure News Corp has bigger worries on its mind, even as it branches out into new markets.

That’s not saying the education won’t benefit from having more competition, but I doubt the Amplify Tablet will prompt Apple to offer greater concessions on bulk iPad purchases.

I’m also thinking a phone-hacking scandal is still fresh in the minds of the decision makers in education, which won’t bode well for the Amplify tablet.

What’s your opinion about this thing?

Does it stand a chance of becoming a viable teaching alternative to Apple’s iPad?

  • does it come stock with some sort of eavesdropping software? j/k 😛

  • Jonathan

    If I was Apple I’d sell iPads to education for nonprofit. Get the kids hooked on Apple so they keep buying Apple stuff, and better education means better future workforce.

    • Lordthree

      For a couple of years Apple offered a free iPod touch to students and educators when they purchased a new Mac. It was actually a rebate for the entire price so it padded the iPod sales a lot. When they stopped the program iPod ‘sales’ began to drop off. Costly move.

  • Lordthree

    This thing is a huge money pit. News Corps stand to lose billions on this! So epic!

    • Kurt

      You’re still a dip shit I see

  • Eric Morgan

    I wouldn’t want anything associated with Murdoch near my kids or schools.

  • smtp25

    If you watch the video it looks pretty good.. Classroom management seems to better than iPad unless there’s some similar educatonal layer on iPad’s that I’ve never seen

  • TheAsianDVD

    Either way, kids at my high school would just sell their tablet to somebody for a whole lot more lol. Just saying….

    • where you from? are the kids complete idiots their? or just totally poor? — dont the two usually run hand in hand?? or are smart people poor and dumb people rich?? i just dont know anymore

      • TheAsianDVD

        There’s always that one ghetto kid in the school that will do that. BTW, it was a joke. I wasn’t serious lol

      • Okay i figured you were talking about ghetto kids anyways!

  • After watching the demo, and checking out the information on their website I have to say I’m intrigued. The classroom management utilities built in to the tablet are unique (even against the iPad), they have basically a built in LMS (learning management system) and it’s aligned to common core. They also have a built in MDM system which doesn’t appear to require add on hosting or anything else aside from the reasonably priced $99/year subscription. Yes, that is reasonable considering the pricing some MDM systems have. Hell, $179/year for 4G data + monitoring is dirt cheap!

    Frankly, if this is real, and it works like they say it does … they’ve nailed it. I think I’ll be contacting them for a trial once they’ve got a device ready to roll out.

    Would I prefer this built on the iPad/iOS platform .. you betcha, but Apple isn’t really paying attention to the growing pains that iOS has had the education space – if you need a good example of that, simply spend some time on Google looking at the complaints around controlling Bonjour.

    • Jonathan

      the thing is with an iPad I (I’m a student who does all my work on an iPad) I can use it for work and for anything else at home etc. much better for each kid to have their own multipurpose tablet than for the school to provide “educational tablets” as they always end up being limited or rarely updated or forgotten about (by the teachers and company providing them). I replaced all my exercise books ( went though an exercise book almost every 2 weeks) and my planner with an iPad, I have much less paper laying around and generally everything is better with the iPad.

  • wonderboydave

    isn’t this just a really big app that can be done on a ipad. meh.

    • I agree that this can be unified under a single app. No need for a new tablet.

  • Nothing wrong with competition, but I just have a hunch, that Apple will still be deep into education(as it has since the Apple II), long after News Corp gives up on the idea.
    Apple has education at its core as well as business, whereas I get the feeling this is just pure business by News Corp, and will drop it like a bad habit, when they inevitably get bored.

  • I had this idea a few years ago. The teacher controlled what was on the students’ tablets, blah blah. The teacher could set a homework assignment from her tablet that would be sent to every student’s tablet, even if they didn’t attend the class. Students could do the homework on their tablet and send it in any time during the week from home, or it would be automatically send back to the teacher at the deadline, even if they hadn’t done it.

    Problem is this: 1. Creating a new tablet for this model isn’t going to work. People want an iPad. And 2. How do you get a tablet in every student’s hand? Do they pay for them? Does the school? What happens if the damage it? That could be pretty costly.

  • David Ekstrom

    It looks like an interesting product. Demo videos always make things look simple, sometimes much simpler than they really are. The problem with this (or all the other tablet manufacturers) is getting people off the “iPad crack”. Education is just buying up iPads thinking it’s the holy grail to successful kids. Technology isn’t going to fix poor instructional planning or inconsistent teaching.
    Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of iPads – they are cool. But I’ve seen some really good ones come along that are less expensive than Apple, and have the same, if not better capability.