Apple continues to build marketshare in the UK education market, Apple's director of EMEA education markets, Herve Marchet, told Macworld this morning.
"In the past quarter we reached 19.6 per cent marketshare across Europe," he said, adding that full year results in the UK have been "fantastic".
Recent figures from research analyst at the Gartner Group have confirmed Apple has achieved 15.4 per cent market share in the UK in the third quarter of 2007 for its desktops and laptop Macs overall, the second biggest provider within the UK education market.
What's behind this growth? Marchet puts it down to Apple's strategy to provide a complete set of solutions for education. "Apple is committed to education, we have a dedicated and experienced team, and we provide not just product, but solutions," he stressed. "I believe we are relevant to the market."
Marchet doesn't think it's enough to simply plough products into education. Successful implementations of technology also demands consistency, training and the provision of content.
Apple's European network of 410 Apple Distinguished Educators and the 150 European training centres all converge on this message. "We teach teachers not just about Apple solutions, but also how to create content that's suitable for digital learning".
Once content is created, providing routes by which that content can be accessed comes into play. This has boosted laptop sales across Europe, he admitted, as educators favour mobile solutions.
Distribution matters too: from podcasting to YouTube, today's learners are digital natives, and the growing wisdom among tech-savvy educators is that it's wise to harness the tools pupils already like to use, from online social networks like Bebo to podcasts and YouTube.
"Combining all of this with the way Apple works with podcasting and a range of streaming solutions have all been a key driver for growth," Marchet observed.
"If you want to play in the education market, you need to be a solutions provider. You aren't just bringing in the machine, you must also offer appropriate software, content and models for best practise in content creation. We even offer lesson plans," he said.
Schools and teachers face challenges. Industry observers confess that a relatively recent government initiative in which huge amounts of funding was provided for the deployment of Whiteboards in schools wasn't wholly successful. Why? Because decision-makers neglected to consider the need to train teachers in best use of the new devices.
That mistake has been learned from, with UK government education think tank Becta now preaching the need for change management as new technologies and processes are applied in schools.
Marchet has his own take: "Sometimes schools can be resistant to change. One of the advantages of our Apple Distinguished Educators is that they can show others how new solutions and technologies can best be applied, reducing the complexity of change.
Marchet also revealed that primary schools are now joining secondary schools in a move to deploy laptops across the institutions. "People have previously been concerned that mobile solutions can be stolen, but we are seeing more and more requests for mobility from primary and secondary schools," he explained.
The Apple education chief also revealed that, while iPods are beginning to establish a footprint within the education market, this is mainly confined to higher education, where teachers use the devices to distribute learning materials. lecture podcasts and video assets to their students.
However, this is not wholly the case, as the debate continues among education policy decision makers as to the virtue of applying familiar technologies within schools, rather than banning their use.
Apple's biggest education chief, John Couch, reportedly told conference goers a story of his own life: "I have three children of my own and eight grandchildren. They are learning all the time, online, exploring new topics, writing blogs, making their own place in the world," he said. "Then they go to school," he added, underscoring the divide then between the familiar technologies children may use at home, and those available at school.
In Edinburgh, schools already use iPods as part of their selection of learning tools - a move that seems soon set to expand as Scotland engages in the world's biggest one-on-one learning initiative involving 40,000 pupils, and a selection of technologies, including Macs and iPods.
Marchet's message to educators isn't a partisan one. Explaining how Apple's network of training centres operates, he stressed the company's focus on providing training in terms of expertise.
"They don't advocate Apple they advocate usage. Our plan isn't to focus on the platform, but the usage, and that community shares expertise and best practice, and offer links to European education."
"We try to show how new technology can be applied positively within the learning experience, so when teachers return to their schools they can apply these solutions, regardless of platform," he said.
Use of mobile solutions has a triple advantage: "It's easier access, learning anywhere at any time, that Intel mantra now begins to make sense. With social mobility there is more collaboration, you can show and share. You don't just have to go to one place to get information, but that you can have it with you and show people on the bus or tube what you have been doing. In terms of sharing and collaboration the impact is huge."
The combined third impact is to boost a sense of community, within and outside of schools.
"The school of the future is today," Marchet asserts. "You have already in the education system the school of the future. They are already here, people using new technology, being totally in with the trend of new technology in schools."