Apple CEO Steve Jobs is to give a keynote at the 22nd Annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Chicago on Monday June 25, held at the McCormick Place Convention Center.

NECC is a three-day conference, with pre-conference workshop on June 23-24. The focus is to inform educators on developments in computing and technology for the classroom offering workshops, speakers, 400 exhibitors and 1,300 booths.

This new move for Apple - which is also exhibiting at the show – may presage a new education offensive by the company, which recently registered the Web domain name ischool.com. After the launches of the free iTunes, iTunes and iMovie programs, there is a possibility that Apple is planning a new application or set of services aimed at educators.

Yesterday, Apple also announced its intention to splash out $63 million on PowerSchool Inc., a company

Apple slips up According to market-researcher IDC, Apple has lost its No.1 position as education-market leader to Windows PC maker Dell, which has recently hired former Apple sales people. During a recent corporate conference call. IDC's PC Tracker report had Dell with a 34.3 per cent share of the education market compared to. a 19 per cent share for Apple.

Jobs said the loss was all Apple's fault, and stemmed from the company "shooting itself in the foot" when it carried out a sales force reorganization earlier this year. With some new executives on board, Apple hopes to recover its number one position, Jobs added.

Start for comeback "Mr Jobs has never spoken to NECC and we're very excited to have him speak to many of our 13,000 attendees," Barbara Hewick, a representative for NECC, told MacCentral.

NECC is sponsored each year by the US National Educational Computing Association (NECA), a non-profit federation of 14 national scientific and professional societies that exists to provide educators with an annual three-day forum in which to “learn, exchange, and survey the astonishing advances being made in the field of educational technology”.

"Apple's still a major player, but its installed base is mostly ageing equipment," Greg Jarboe, vice president of marketing at Web CT, an e-learning services firm, told Computer Reseller News . Apple is actively looking for partners to build e-learning applications for its new operating system, he added.

"They're trying to make a comeback," he said. "They see their new operating system, Mac OS X, as the horse to ride back into this market. Anyone who sells Steve Jobs short is in for a surprise."

BETT success Apple UK won three awards at January’s London-based BETT 2001 education show, for its iBook and AirPort products. Apple was honoured in two categories. AirPort was voted Best ICT Hardware in Secondary Schools, and iBook and AirPort won the coveted gong for Innovation of the Year.

Apple also used the show to announce that a UK update to the Apple Learning Series was "imminent".

Designed for teachers, ALS is an integrated suite of software applications and curriculum content. Paul Scott, Apple's regional education manager, told Macworld: "The UK is the first country in Europe to have Apple Learning Solutions launched into their education market.

"The individual packages are in transition, evolving and changing all the time, we can expect an update within the next month. Apple is growing in the UK education market from infant, to primary, through to higher and further education. "