This is Rupert Murdoch’s iPad killer for education

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?