View from the Classroom
More Straight Talk About the Education Market, Page 2
by Steve Wood
October 28, 2002



If you've somehow wandered directly to this page, it is the second page of the column, More Straight Talk About the Education Market. To confuse things further, that column is a follow-up column to Straight Talk About the Education Market.

Robert Emery is not a teacher, but is certainly involved with schools. He wrote:

The following is an e-mail I sent to Apple in response to another author of a similar editorial on Apple's dismal education sales. Not being on the front line (although my oldest son is a teacher), I still visit schools and school district offices a lot. Apple has done very little to increase it's presence in even some of the largest districts in the country. I would like to say I enjoyed your editorial, but unfortunately, it stirs up bad feelings toward the current regime. Instead, I just say thanks for a very well written and thought provoking article.

My personal belief of the arrogance of Apple is the recent release of Jaguar, where Apple removed the ability to add haxies to the menu bar. Why? Because that's the way Steve wanted it: It is his menu bar, not ours. This is not to say that he hasn't done wonders in saving the company, but rather, I suspect given his megalomania, that if he were into politics like he is computers, they would be lining up Republicans to send them off the the death camps. Okay, a little overstated, but you get the picture. Keep up the good work.


1. For the past 28 years I have been a provider of insurance to schools and school districts. I am president of Student Insurance, Inc.

2. Since 1984 I have been an avid user of Macs. Our office is all Mac, and the company is run on FileMaker.

3. Over the years I have assisted many educators with computer problems, both in the classroom and in day-to-day use for operation of the school.


The current, and even former business model, is ineffective and inadequate in reaching the education market. Educators, for the most part, like dealing with local people. Sure, they like the big guns from the company coming to town, but when all is said and done they will be depending on the local representatives to assist them with problems (even if all the local rep does is call Apple to get the solution!).

There are just too many school districts across America for you to put together a manageable (affordable) in-house sales force to establish and maintain meaningful relations with all of them. This doesn't even begin to take into account all of the private and parochial schools.


Create relationships with existing (or create a new category) of VAR to establish and maintain the front-line contact with the schools.

Note: if this is not possible for public school districts because of a predetermined business model, at least consider it for private and parochial schools. Apple may have a clear (?) path for direct sales for the education market, but they have a very spotty history of support to same.

In another email, Bob added the following:

As a user of their products for the past twenty years and a stock holder I can't think of anything I would like better than for them to get their act together in the educational market. If anything I've said will help I'm willing to "stand the court" of Apple's opinion.

Follow-up note: The new "Jaguar for a Teacher" program, however gracious it may seem, may really be more harmful than helpful. Every teacher I know personally that has a Mac at home, has a machine that is inadequate for OS X, much less Jaguar. Apparently they (Apple) are unaware that most teachers are underpaid and tend to take big ticket purchases, such as computers, very seriously and don't replace equipment until absolutely necessary. I hope I am wrong and just have friends that are the isolated case, but if I am not wrong then it is just further proof that Apple is clueless about the very market they used to own. Possibly just another instance of Apple Arrogance. Why not offer them deep discounts on new machines that already have OS X installed.

And for teachers lucky enough to have sufficient horsepower on their machines at school, I also have this mental image of school IT directors around the country expressing their love for Apple when all of these "freebies" are installed by the new recipients unbeknownst to the aforementioned IT personnel.

Bob's comments about teachers' machines being inadequate to run OS X are well-taken here. I just barely can run it on my 4 1/2 year-old G3 minitower. The part about teachers installing the free update on their Macs "unbeknownst to...IT personnel" gave me a good laugh. Of course, I don't have to clean up the mess!

Albert Delgado sent along these "random comments on Apple." He's a techie in an elementary school who does a lot of great things on the Mac platform. He also updates a great web log, Blogging from the Barrio.

I love the product and have come to hate the company!

If Apple wants educators to help schools go Apple, they need to get Apple computers into the teachers' hands. Apple needs to give a serious price reduction and work with local school districts to give educators a payroll deduction option. I would bet that most educators would continue to buy Apple computers in the future, once they have one in their hands. Apple gets Lazy! The iBook is a great piece of technology for mobile computing. It seems as though Apple knows it has a good thing, and then gets lazy. Apple cannot afford to get lazy, since Dell has been given permission to sell computers to Chicago Public Schools this fall.

I think Apple is run by bean counters who do not trust teachers as being an ally and really do not know about educators and schools. I had better relationships with local system engineers and reps from Apple 2 years ago. Apple needs, as you say, to hire Apple local reps who are evangelists and who love showing off Apple technology as much in the urban school districts as they do in the rich suburbs. I believe the technology speaks for itself! We need folks with balls! We need Apple folks who know how to work with their local Apple education service and product vendor.

I have offered to go with Apple reps and the local Apple education system engineer to talk with the CPS Tech head honchos to get some kind of constructive relationship going. Silence is what I get. I have written enough email to higher ups. Some of these folks must know what is up, but stay quiet. Or, they do the "two step" and fake like they are making integral changes by shuffling people in their education division. The head of tech training at the Chicago Pubic Schools is pro-Apple! (This is a miracle.) You would think Apple would be knocking at his door to work on some kind of training program for Mac believers. I have written enough emails trying to get local Apple folks and him together. Still nothing.... I do not understand Apple not taking the "bull by the horns." Maybe the the blame lies in Cupertino. I do not know, but the situation is critical. For example, we could not have Apple OS X certification courses in the Chicago Public Schools because the training lab didn't have enough appropriate Mac computers according to Apple. One would think that Apple would supply the servers on loan just to get more technology coordinators on board Mac OS X server.

If you think things are bad for the average Mac user, the school Mac administrator is in worse condition. It costs 1400 greenbacks a day for an Apple education system engineer to work on one's servers. As an administrator, I know that Macs servers running on Classic are rock solid in terms of security and are damn simple to set up as a server. I operate two G4 servers now. Though I know that the new MacOS X Servers are cool and have great open source serving software, there is really no help in leveraging that power. I am relying on what I learned by myself on operating Classic based Apple servers. No training or certification is offered by Apple at reasonable prices. They should pay O'Reilly Publishers to bring real teachers and tech authors together and come out with some great docs for school network administrators and webmasters -- the "Missing Manuals for School Mac OS X Administrators." Apple maybe should encourage the development of knowledge blogs for the benefit of Apple educators who are in charge of administrating Apple servers.

Several folks wrote in suggesting I lead a campaign to get the programs teachers need rewritten for Mac OS X. I explained to those folks that first, I'd been around the block with "let's start a club and fix...this or that" a few times and didn't need the aggravation again. When I suggested posting their names and contact information, all but one simply disappeared.In contrast to those folks, Chilton Webb sent in this offer.

The Mac developer group I work with is finishing its last major project for a client this week. Next week we'll be looking at prioritizing new projects. In your article you mentioned that a number of education titles are not ported to X yet. Frankly, this sounds like a good time for us to get a leg up on the competition in a field that it sounds like is being ignored. Do you have any particular titles you'd like to see on X that aren't there yet? Do you have any suggestions for *new* software that you would like to have that either doesn't exist on X, or doesn't exist at all?

This sounds like a great offer to me. Chilton and his group will face the same problems the Electronic Phoenix Project faced a few years ago. The entities that own the rights to each and every one of the applications one might wish to port to OS X may be unwilling to share their rights and source code. We've all seen titles such as Fontographer, Home Page, Em@iler, HyperCard, etc. languish because the owner wasn't willing to upgrade them or release the code. However, I suspect Chilton and his group have the wherewithall to get the job done on some of these projects. He later wrote me of one very exciting (for me) future release by his group. I'm absolutely drooling!Stay tuned and send your suggestions to Chilton.Several letters below are presented as anonymous missives. The reasons for the writers requesting such treatment are predictable. (These statements are highly edited to protect the identity of the writers.)
  • I am an Apple Employee.
  • I am a former Apple Employee.
  • I work for an Apple Developer & VAR.
  • I have to depend on Apple for developer support and the last thing I need is to be "blackballed" by them.
  • Apple de-authorizes anyone who dares to say anything less than positive about them.

The following email pretty well sums up the situation with Apple Education. The writer is a veteran in dealing with Apple, but he/she sounds just about worn out with it all.

You've accurately described the train wreck that is Apple Education. As an Apple reseller, we've been witness to all of these events, and have been continually amazed at Apple's blindness and extreme arrogance. I have argued, pleaded, begged ad nauseum to Apple executives about what was happening "in the trenches", and to please let us help stem the tide. In typical Apple fashion, they dismissed our pleadings entirely. Oh silly me, I thought we were all on the same team.

I remember attending an Apple dealer meeting in Cupertino, right before Windows 95 was introduced. The Apple executives were out-of-hand dismissive of it, and literally laughed out loud about the possible success Microsoft might have with it. "It's still doesn't work just like a Mac," or something along those lines. Never mind the fact that it was a huge step forward for existing Windows users at the time. Never mind the fact that it was much closer to the Mac experience than ever before.

Good enough is often perfectly acceptable for the masses.

Our local University recently spent months working on a new multi-year contract to supply new computers for their staff. Dell, Gateway, HP, IBM, and Apple were all involved in the bidding. The University devoted a whole team of people to put together this new program. The Apple education rep seemed to understand their needs, and assured them that they would be really competitive. One of the purchasing agents went so far as to tell me that they (Apple) might become the "Sole Supplier" of computers, as they were assured that Apple was going to be really aggressive for this bid.

Needless to say, Apple's bid was not the lowest. In fact, it was the highest. They didn't even quote appropriate equipment as the bid specified. To say that those in purchasing were burned is an understatement. Well, the University now is actively contemplating a one-platform policy. It very likely will go through. One of the main proponents of the Apple platform prior to this bid disaster has since received a Dell laptop with Windows XP. He has since grown to not only like the experience, but now prefers it.

As I have always said, and I think you'd agree, "As Apple Education goes, so goes Apple corporate fortunes." Maybe not today, or even tomorrow, but give it enough time and I think that Apple will have a very tenuous business proposition. This is coming from someone who has been an Apple loyalist for 15 years. I've made my living during that time doing nothing but supporting and selling Apple products.

I've stuck with Apple through their darkest days, the days when major business magazines publicly proclaimed the "Death of Apple" to the world, yet I always still believed. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. More than two years ago, I decided that making a living selling and supporting Apple wouldn't continue to be viable.

I have since gone back to school to obtain a specialization other than Apple, and soon plan to close shop and move on. And as would be expected, Apple simply won't care, despite the fact that our local customer base will soon be left in the lurch.

Great article, fair, well balanced, accurate.

An Apple developer sent in the following. He's not happy with "His Steveness," and also pointed out the lack of support for the developers community:

I'd just like to say that your article hit the nail on the head. It echoes what I have been saying since I first saw their Mac OS X Developers preview. It was slow, buggy and should never have been released to the public. After 2+ years, it's still sluggish even on high end multi-processor hardware.

The main problem IMHO is Steve Jobs. He's a "Snake Oil Salesman" who is all Glitz, no substance and no loyalty to his customers. I think this current screw-up on this MacWorld shift to Boston just illustrates where the problem lies. Rather than face the reality that it's too expensive for vendors to do the show in New York and IDG can negotiate a much better deal for attendees or vendors in Boston, Steve throws a hissy fit when he can't get his 30 second sound byte on TV because he's not close to the NY Networks. It's obvious that the Apple and the IDG people had been talking about the move for months and then I guess someone told "Steve" on a bad "job day" - and now we have NY and Boston both PO'd with Macs/Apple. How stupid and arrogant can you get?

Secondly, something you have not touched on (yet) is the lack of support in the developers community. Documentation is basically non-existent, the Apple E-Mail groups lists are absent of Apple employees, example code samples are outdated or just plain wrong for OS X (either remove it or clearly state this is not to be used for OS X), main web sites have dead links and reporting them does nothing. Frankly it feels as if there's no one left at Apple, and the people that are there either don't know what they are doing or don't care.

It's sad to say, but I have begun to seriously reconsider doing development for the Mac.

For those struggling with using OS X in student labs, here's a comment with a link that may help.

Here's another angle where Apple isn't helping: deploying and maintaining open student labs on OS X in college labs. See on how dozens of universities are struggling with this issue. In OS 9 and earlier, there was RevRdist (Dale Talcott, at Purdue), and Windows systems have PCRdist and Symantec's Ghost.

Again, here's that link for the Higher Education Mac OS X Lab Deployment Initiative.

A band director from a Virginia public school sent this message:

Thank you for your very thoughtful, insightful, and prophetic message. It is columns like this that challenge our corporate behemoths to bend their paths back to their original purpose. Apple has become like a fallen angel that has lost its way and is in danger of self-destruction.

I, too, am an educator. The school system in which I teach has abandoned the Mac platform, and I compose this letter on a Compaq DeskPro. The last school in which I taught was in the process of switching over from Macs to PC's as I left.

From a teacher in Montréal:

I totally agree with you. I am a teacher loyal to the Mac, and yes, we were abandoned by our faithful Apple! I think the main reason for Apple's decrease in education was price. Apple's computers are ...too expensive for schools, period!

Still great machines, I hope the Think Different ads make sense for tomorrow's teachers...

And from a former Apple employee:

If it's any consolation, and it's probably not, Apple doesn't listen to it's own employees either. I wrote most of the points in your recent article 6 years ago and sent it up the chain. It was ignored.

Neither do they tell their employees what is coming.

I sat in the audience and heard about the iMac at the same time as my customers. As someone with an important sounding technical title at Apple, the customers naturally asked questions of me after the announcement.

I was unable to intelligently answer any questions until I'd found a web browser and read about our new products online.

That unfortunately is how most employees at Apple find out about what the company they work for is doing.

Apple isn't completely deaf on this issue, there is a serial port on the X-Serve.

The reader comments above don't paint a pretty picture. Longtime Mac users are clearly restless and are considering jumping ship. The problems and complaints contained in the readers' emails in this column present what may be an overwhelming challenge to Apple Computer and Apple Education. If Apple can't fix these things, I suspect the defections to the PC platform will only accelerate.

Some Other Thoughts

While the classic box of OS X does allow one to use some older applications under Apple's new operating system, it does so very slowly. Many educational and edutainment CDs that teachers have purchased for classroom use run only on a machine booted to OS 9 or earlier. They just don't seem to work in the OS X classic box.

Replacing all of those titles with OS X versions, if the OS X versions were available (and mostly, they're not), is financially prohibitive. My CD wallet contains about 80 titles, purchased over time for just $5 or $10 per CD in some cases, but up to $50 or more per title for a few. We use CDs, such as the Schoolhouse Rock series, Pinball Science, JumpStart, and others for reinforcement, or, in the worst use case, as pacifiers until we shake someone free for direct instruction with our kids.

While Apple has not provided an effective answer for using these CDs under Mac OS X's classic box, most of my titles were purposely purchased as hybrid CDs (Mac/Win). Far more of them still run under Windows 2000 and XP than under the classic box of Mac OS X. This is the kind of stuff Apple never presents in their "total cost of operation" presentations.

Apple needs to work a bit more on the classic box if they're going to go ahead and sell machines that boot only to Mac OS X beginning in January.

Odd thoughts while shaving between paragraphs:

I hate follow-up columns. I always feel like I'm cheating the reader when they go to one of my column listings and find a bunch of cut and paste emails with a few sage quips from me on each. I don't much like or read "The Readers Speak" columns of others as well.

If readers really want to get a comment online, they will find or start a forum somewhere. For example, some nice folks gathered at an MNN forum a year or so ago, trying to decide whether to hang or shoot me after I'd suggested in Never mind. Apple Education probably is dead. that Apple was blowing the education market with its pricing of the then new iBook revision.

I began this column because many readers wanted their comments made public. Some of the emails I received have some rather astounding information in them that I didn't think would get posted all in one place, so I reversed my avoidance of "letters columns" this one time. I don't plan to make a practice of it, however.

I also don't like posting readers' comments without attribution. At one point in the writing of this column, I deleted all of the emails from readers who asked to remain anonymous. I reconsidered, however, because some of their comments were so telling of the situation.

A Follow-up Column to the Follow-up Column?

Is there another such column in the works?

Not a chance. If you really want Apple Education to know your thoughts, use the link below and express them directly to Apple.

As I said in the first Straight Talk About the Education Market column, "It really doesn't matter." Apple isn't listening.

Apple's educational marketshare has been rapidly dwindling for years. Their consistent response has been to spin the numbers to hide the erosion. New product offerings have been consistently overpriced. Apple parts and service remain terribly overpriced.

While most of us using Macs in the classroom are desperately trying to teach our students the skills necessary for their survival in the world, Apple continues to insist that the "digital hub" is the future of educational computing. Apple has neglected the needs of all but a few elite educators teaching in situations that permit a "digital revolution." Again, "The national reality of the need to improve students' mastery of reading, spelling, composition, and math was [is] totally lost on Apple."

While the majority of Mac-using classroom teachers must depend on machines that boot into Mac OS 9 or earlier, Apple has chosen to announce the death of the classic OS and pronounce "that starting in January 2003, all new Mac® models will only boot into Mac® OS X as the start-up operating system."

I guess it's not so much a matter of educators leaving the Macintosh platform. It's more a matter that Apple has left us.

Why not write to Apple?

While I appreciate and try to answer all emails sent to me about my columns, you might also want to visit the Apple Contact page and share your views, compliments, and concerns directly with Apple. In the past, I had some success with writing directly to the CEO of Apple at:

Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

I'm not sure it will do much good, but who knows? Maybe it will make you feel better:-).

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©2002 Steven L. Wood