"Tim Cook announces new 9.7" iPad that's compatible with Apple Pencil

If it could do both - hit a cheaper price-point and support the Apple Pencil - the company would really have something to shout about to the education market.

As noted by the folks over at MacRumors, Apple has quietly introduced a bunch of iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch accessories in new spring colours following today's educational event. A new iPad is always big news, but outside of the event, Apple quietly did something much more significant.

"New 9.7" iPad with Apple Pencil support, available this week. Increasing storage to 128 GB adds $100, and cellular adds $130. Standard models come with 50 GB.

The new 9.7in iPad, Apple's most affordable, works with the Apple Pencil, the first non-Pro device to do so.

Because it's aimed primarily at students, Apple has boosted free iCloud storage from 5GB to 200GB. The option Pencil will be priced $89 for students and $99 price for regular consumers.

The new iPad comes in silver, space gray and a new gold finish. While schools typically buy Chromebooks for about $250 to $300, iPads for schools can cost almost $800 apiece, because of the education curriculum included with Apple's tablet. There's also a new set of templates in Apple's digital book authoring software, which also earns support for the Pencil.

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Mobile broadband-equipped models will also use the Apple SIM, a carrier-neutral SIM that can be switched between providers without having to be removed or replaced. Meanwhile, its new ClassKit platform allows developers to create puzzles, tests, and lesson plans for students. And he said the new classroom software should help Apple compete with Google and Microsoft, "reducing the incentive for schools using Apple products to do so in combination with productivity tools from competitors".

"Macs and iPads are used throughout schools by students for everything from music to language arts and even advanced robotics", Apple's CEO Tim Cook said at the event. But in recent years, Apple's dominance has slipped. In 2013, half of the mobile devices that were used in USA classrooms were either iPads or MacBook laptops, but the popularity of the tablet went down and Apple slipped away from competition.

Apple sold an estimated 43.8m iPads in 2017, according to analyst IDC, comfortably fending off competition from Amazon's budget Fire (16.7m) and Samsung's rival devices (24.9m) to make it the world's best-selling tablet.

Perhaps it has learned from its mistakes. The question is whether or not Apple sweetened the deal enough for educators to regain some of the ground it's already ceded to Google and the Chromebook.

The new iPad is equipped with more capable specs and features to tackle the challenges of modern classrooms.

Offering a special education-only version of a product is something Apple has done before.

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