Innovation giant Apple announced a foray into yet another new field Thursday morning at the Solomon R Guggenheim museum in New York. After conquering personal computers, music, and phones and spawning the phenomenon-cum-addiction that is Angry Birds, the company is moving into education.
The New York Times "Bits" blog reported that Apple's announcement included the release of iBooks 2, an updated app specifically for the iPad that will display textbooks -- as well as a host of accompanying interactive features -- digitally and cheaply.
Books on an array of subjects and produced by publishing giants like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be available for less than $15 through the feature.
In addition, the website Education News reportedthat iTunes U will be expanded to improve student access to assignments and messages from teachers.
iBooks Author is yet another app, allowing any Mac user to essentially create and publish their own books for the iPad, according to the Huffington Post.
All three new products are free and available on the iTunes Store.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the new emphasis education technology is in line with the long-term goals of late Apple founder Steve Jobs, "who had long aimed to reform education with technology."
So far, responses to the announcement have been mixed.
The Huffington Post reported many Twitter users applauding the company's innovation and emphasis on affordability and progress, while others were only vaguely interested.
But Anya Kamenetz, writing for business magazine Fast Company, reported that some see the company's emphasis on iBooks 2's new potential for interactive features -- like video, note-taking, and flash cards -- as focusing on a less than crucial issue.
"An early take is that even the most INTERACTIVE! MULTIMEDIA!! textbook is solving the wrong problem, which is access to peers, educators, and active learning opportunities for students around the world, not a dearth of mitosis animations," Kamenetz wrote.
Much of the post-announcement conversation, however, remains focused on the major potential benefits to students: the tiny price of an e-textbook compared to its print counterpart, and the tiny weight of a digital tablet compared to a four-pound hardbound book.
Education News quoted Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, summing up: "We want to reinvent the textbook."