Apple's education sales declined 15 per cent in its fourth quarter – but Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson believes the company has a formula for success in the market.

Recent weeks have seen several announcements relating to so-called "one-to-one" notebook deals between Apple and certain US state education authorities.

These involve mass-purchase lease agreements in which pupils end up with an iBook they can use at home and at school. Initial results from one such deployment – in Maine – have shown these schemes to have a beneficial effect on student performance.

"Apple believes one-to-one deployments are the future of education sales," Anderson said during the conference call.

Earlier this month, the company secured a $3.2 million pilot scheme in North Carolina's Greene County district under which 1,800 students and 170 teachers will get iBooks.

Deals closed

Anderson said the company has closed six educational deals worth in excess of 1,000 units as well as 20-25 deals for under 1,000 units during the fourth quarter.

Apple and Dell are also currently competing to secure a massive order for 130,000 notebooks from Michigan State, in which every sixth-grade student in that state would get a laptop. The $156 million program is scheduled to kick-off on January 1, 2004

Returning to Apple's decline in education shipments, Anderson described a "widespread weakness" in the US education market, which the company believes reflects financial insecurity in the US states.

Higher-education sales were good – Apple saw its strongest quarter in seven years, he said, attributing this to Power Mac G4 and PowerBook sales.