The feedback sessions at WWDC provide some of the most interesting and informative times. The VP event this year was a highlight. Many of the questions centered around education, and Tim Cook, Senior VP, Worldwide Operations took much of the heat.
Why? Understanding higher education goes past price and compatibility issues. There was once a weight of Apple presence at the university level, but no longer (especially in Canada), and this is the nub of market share loss.
You see, university education is fundamentally unlike business. A professor don’t see bottom line results at the end of the month. They become evident in people’s lives ten years or more later–why I’m in education (including writing) and not in business. It’s so for Apple. Overall market share in the late nineties collapsed for many reasons, but failure to keep universities in the fold a decade earlier was a big part of the problem. They replaced with Wintel; their grads bought and developed for Wintel
Are things changing? Where are the institutional research partnerships? Where are the coop/intern arrangements? Where are the faculty exchanges with Apple’s campus? Where are the corporate academics who ought to be on the speaker circuit among us? Where are the research contracts with universities? Where are the showcase schools that fundraise for jointly-sponsored facilities while Apple advertises on the back of corporate-academic partnerships? Where is the support for the few friends Apple has left in academia? What does Apple even know about university life, research, partnerships, and cooperative marketing?
Marketing to universities is more than sales, more than cool. It’s an investment; it’s hard work. Apple hasn’t been serious about taking the many steps needed to change things. Is it now?
What should Apple do?
- revive the education consortium
- cooperatively set up a handful of showcase schools with Mac labs
- do joint fundraising/advertising with universities
- get more involved with coop/intern programs
- fund research; get involved in technology transfer
- fund some high profile chairs of computing science
- exchange academics to the Apple campus
- identify key institutions (not always the largest) and market aggressively to them
- make deals students cannot resist on hardware and developer tools
- lower the price of the premiere developer package
- make a deal with, say, Franklin, to co-brand their e-book reader as an Apple product and market it to universities and their students as a low-cost textbook source
- better yet, get the PIEA (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliance) right by marrying cell phone-computer-bookreader-PDA in a pocket package
- have FileMaker buy Nisus, Eudora, and a spreadsheet and sell a serious productivity package in direct competition with MS. Market to students first.
After all, OS X on a desktop or portable (even it it did last 20 years) isn’t really the future, it’s the present. What about the future? The good old Apple (as opposed to the bad old Apple) got the future right most of the time, and this is always at least as important as getting the present right. The improved current Apple need to be readying the next generation of hardware and software, and achieving true portability. It needs even more to capture mind share at the universities, or else…