Apple's notebooks are the company's main chance to gain education market share in the US, Business Week reports.

While Mac desktop sales to education are weakening, Apple's notebooks match the needs of the market, the report says, pointing to AirPort wireless networking; a desire to furnish students with machines they can use at home and in school; and Mac OS X's advanced network management tools.

The extended report looks at the Broward County Public School District, which just ordered 4,500 notebooks for the forthcoming academic year. The chief information officer of the district wants to make the area 100 per cent Apple, citing ease-of-use, the stable OS and a lower cost of ownership.

Apple is achieving traction, the report indicates: "In 2003, Apple's laptop market share in the segment grew by 3.2 per cent over the previous year, to 26.9 per cent of laptops sold in this category. During that period, the laptop market share of the sector leader, Dell, fell 1.1 per cent."

In order to grow market share, Apple is focused on one-on-one deals, such as that with the State of Maine. Apple senior VP worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said: "Rather than march the kid down to the computer lab to learn about computers, now it's about how can computers assist in learning? We've pioneered that shift."

Apple does face an obstacle. The increasing centralization of US education districts means that many districts lack Mac support resources.

Analyst firm Quality Education Data president Jeanne Hayes described the, "increasingly corporate climate of school districts," adding, "centralizing on one platform makes life easier for tech directors and CIOs".