View from the
While the story of Apple dropping the free iTools package in favor of the new fee based .Mac has been widely circulated, there's another nasty little Apple pricing story that has gone virtually unnoticed. With the announcement of the Mac OS X 10.2 upgrade being a full-price, no upgrade path upgrade, educational institutions are left in a bit of a pickle.
The steep pricing of the upgrade has been noted with dismay around the Mac web, but no one has written anything about the potential effect on schools. While Jaguar retails at $129, it sells for $69 for either K-12 schools or individual teachers through the Apple Store for Education. The Apple Education Volume License Agreement Price List (33K PDF document), offers the upgrade as a full, new license purchase only, discounted for 10 licenses or more (10-99 seats - $59, 99-999 seats - $49, 1000+ seats - $39). Just as with the general public, there really is no "upgrade" path for financially strapped educational institutions.
Another option for schools is the Mac OS X Maintenance Program. The program guarantees updates for three years for $207 ($147 for education) with a minimum purchase of "10 seats" (licenses) and with the total fee due up front in most cases. A call to our Apple Ed rep and a quick check of the EVLA (linked above) confirmed that option still exists.
My school just purchased its first new Macs in over five years last April. It was an incredible struggle to even get Apple products considered. We ended up buying 24 iBooks and 6 G4 towers, along with some server software to push updates out to the new machines. Even with Apple's education price of $59 per license ("10-99 seats"), we're looking at $1770 to upgrade all the new units to 10.2. Unfortunately, we're struggling to purchase the applications we need for the new computers (the grant purchase also included 24 faster IBM ThinkPads at a substantially lower price than the iBooks).
With our limited budget, it's a sure thing that our machines will have to run Mac OS X 10.1.5 for the foreseeable future, unless Apple does a quick and unlikely reversal on the 10.2 upgrade pricing for schools. While that may not sound too bad, and I'm really looking forward to using the iBooks in the classroom next year, it also means that the operating system on those units is already outdated. Will future OS X bug fixes and updates require the 10.2 update? They almost certainly will!
You might think our Apple Education representative might be able to rectify the situation, but in a phone call today, he had to defend 10.1.5 as a useable operating system. While he was sympathetic to our plight, he could not offer a free upgrade on the virtually new machines purchased last April and said he did not expect any modification of the educational pricing on the OS X 10.2 upgrade. He did offer to send me literature on the Mac OS X Maintenance Program. Let's see, $147 per machine for three years of guaranteed upgrades times 30 comes out to...
I linked yesterday to Mark Marcantonio's column, Apple Education's Blind Spot. Mark points out that "The slow adoption by education software developers of OSX...is costing the company true growth in education." He writes:
If and when those developers of which Mark spoke produce OS X versions of their educational applications, will they read "Minimum System Requirement, Mac OS X 10.2" on the side of the box?
I don't think my school's situation is all that unique. I suspect that teachers and IT people around the nation who use Macs and are responsible for their care and upkeep are wondering like me, "Now, what am I going to do?" Apple has outdated our operating system before we even put the new machines into serious use. (Many schools purchase computers at the end of the school year in anticipation of having everything ready to go for the next school year -- now, with an outdated OS!)
How unhappy am I? When we were in the hardware purchasing cycle for the grant that produced our new Macs, I had to make it very clear to our Apple representative that while I wanted to specify iBooks for purchase, without a competitive price, I'd back off and let the school go totally PC! The rep responded with a competitive bid that we could accept, but only because we had some serious leverage at the time to specify at least some Macs be purchased. When I return to school next month, I'm sure the point will be made that the PC laptops purchased still have a current operating system at no additional cost.
Many folks have effectively made the point that many school IT people are hostile to the Mac platform. Apple CEO Steve Jobs frequently has stressed Apple's "commitment to education." I've taken a lot of flack from Apple and readers over the last few years for questioning any commitment by Apple or Steve Jobs to education, beyond milking that market for as much as possible.
I was impressed last spring to find that Apple Education finally could and would deal on a small number of Macs for a small school system. Apple's successes in Henrico County, the Michigan Teacher Technology Initiative, and with the Maine Laptop Initiative appeared to be translating into aggressive pricing for all schools, regardless of size. The addition of the excellent PowerSchool school management software was welcome news. It actually appeared for a time that Apple was truly taking the education market seriously.
With one incredibly shortsighted and greedy decision, Apple has wiped away any lasting favorable impression of a company committed to education by those who must maintain Apple products for schools. The pricing decision on the OS X 10.2 upgrade to schools just puts more valid ammunition into hostile IT directors' arsenals against having anything to do with Macs or the Macintosh platform.
But beyond that, the decision will tie the hands, not to mention alienating, many school Mac supporters like myself who drive the Macintosh educational purchases at their schools. While our Apple rep offered to try to help with the upgrade "on the back end" of any new purchases we make, I'm currently not willing or able to specify or recommend any Apple products at my school in light of the OS X 10.2 school rip-off.
Odd Thoughts While Shaving Between Paragraphs:
I think with interest focused this week on Macworld that most folks probably missed the Educators' News feature, Out of this World Desktop Pictures (from NASA and Others).
I've also updated the Educators' News Special Report for Educators -- Macintosh Pricing. It's a simple, no text, no opinion listing of retail, K-12 for Individuals, and K-12 Schools pricing of most major current Apple products.
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©2002 Steven L. Wood