Apple made a surprise announcement on Friday when it unveiled plans to host a special education event at a high school in Chicago later this month. Apple says it will reveal “creative new ideas for teachers and students” at Lane Tech College Prep High School on March 27, and we already have a good idea of what to expect.

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Live Stream or No Live Stream?

Apple’s last major education event was held six years ago in New York City on January 19, 2012. Textbooks for $15 and under from major publishers coming to iBooks and the now-dated iBooks Author app for Mac were highlights of the event.

While that event was not live streamed, Apple later posted a video replay to its website. There’s no evidence that Apple will live stream next week’s event either — hosting it at a high school may be a factor — but 9to5Mac will be in attendance to report the latest developments in real-time.

ClassKit Framework with Education Apps

Based on code discovered by 9to5Mac‘s Gui Rambo, we believe Apple is planning to introduce a new developer framework called ClassKit that can be used within education apps on iOS.

From our report early last month:

It seems like Apple is introducing a brand new public development framework, called ClassKit, that’s aimed towards educational apps.

From a brief look into the code for that framework, it looks like it will allow developers of educational apps to create student evaluation features, users will be able to answer questionnaires that will be automatically transmitted to teachers remotely via iCloud.

Early betas of iOS 11.3 for developer and public beta testers also included preferences related to ClassKit apps for both teachers and students.

Based on the timing of this event and the expected release timeframe for iOS 11.3, we expect ClassKit to be officially unveiled and explained in greater detail at Apple’s event next week. We also expect to see apps that work with ClassKit to be demonstrated.

New Hardware?

Apple focused solely on software — specifically for ebooks — at its last education event in 2012. The popular iPad 2 wasn’t quite a year old yet, and the first Retina iPad wouldn’t be released for another two months.

This time lots of new, lower-priced hardware is expected based on supply chain rumors, and cheaper products make sense for schools buying in bulk.

First up is iPad. Apple released the current $329 9.7-inch iPad around this time last year, and now an even more affordable model is rumored.

One report claims Apple is planning to strike somewhere around $259. That’s a big leap from the current non-Pro iPad price and supply chain rumors aren’t typically privy to marketing details like prices. Apple does offer the $329 iPad from $309 for education customers, however, so it seems possible to hit the sub-$300 level easily without upgrading the hardware significantly.

Unlikely but definitely welcome is the possibility of a new Apple Pencil, but that only makes sense at this event if Apple is adding Pencil support to the cheaper iPads, which doesn’t make as much cost sense.

Next is talk of a cheaper MacBook Air … or MacBook. Apple’s notebook marketing alone needs a refresh since the slimmest and lighted laptop is called MacBook and the previously slimmest MacBook Air is much heftier by comparison.

The rumor mill seems equally confused on what is coming is when, but it boils down to two possibilities: a cheaper version of the current 13.3-inch MacBook Air that may or may not see any spec changes, and a cheaper 13.3-inch Retina MacBook that costs less than the $1299 12-inch Retina MacBook.

The MacBook Air remains popular for both everyday consumers and education customers alike due to its $999 starting price and legacy ports like USB-A over USB-C. The MacBook Air starts at $849 for education customers, and knocking $100 or $200 off the price of the current hardware could help promote Macs in the classroom.

A 13-inch Retina MacBook that costs less than the 12-inch Retina MacBook is a bigger change that would likely mean more changes to the whole MacBook lineup, so we’ll see on that one. It’s possible the MacBook Air is Apple’s education play while the 13-inch Retina MacBook is more of a general consumer play saved for a WWDC or fall event unveil if true.

iBooks Author Update + Apple Books?

Apple’s iBooks Author Mac app hasn’t received a major new version since October 2012 with most new updates consisting of device compatibility changes. It’s fair to say a new version is long past due, and iBooks Author for iOS (or at least iPad) has long been desired. No guarantees that we’ll see any changes here, however, but the education focus of the event is timely.

We also saw iBooks rebranded as Apple Books during a few iOS 11.3 developer and public beta versions. Bloomberg followed that change with a report highlighting a new focus on the ebook service expected later this year. The shift from iBooks to an overhauled Apple Books experience ultimately may prove to be an iOS 12 change and not an iOS 11.3 change, however, so this is another wildcard for the event.

iOS 11.3

We’ll likely see the final versions of iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3, watchOS 4.3, and macOS 10.13.4 seeded to developers and public beta testers this week, followed by an official release either next week or a release date announced next week.

Follow our continuing coverage of each beta version to see what changes are included, and expect ClassKit availability to be attached to iOS 11.3. Note that iOS 11.3 also includes new battery health settings coming to iPhones in response to Apple’s resolution for unexpected shutdowns affecting iPhones with older batteries.

Accessory Refresh

Even if they’re not mentioned in the education event, we also expect the usual spring refresh of colors for Apple Watch bands and iPhone and iPad cases. These could be saved for an update on Apple.com following the event.

Apple’s new AirPower wireless charging mat for iPhone 8 and later, Apple Watch Series 3 and later, and AirPods with wireless charging case is also due any time this year based on Apple’s 2018 promise.

If AirPower is ready, we expect a mention during the event or after the event on Apple.com, and the new AirPods charging case with support for wireless charging will likely accompany the release.

There is a string of code in iOS that points to support for AirPower and was previously present in iOS 11.3 beta but has since been removed, however, so we don’t consider an AirPower launch a certainty.

Total Wildcards

Even more up in the air is any other new hardware including iPhone updates. Apple released the original iPhone SE two years ago and doubled the storage for the same price a year ago. Rumors of a second-generation model with a faster processor have swirled, but no guarantees that we’ll see this unveiled next week.

Another possibility is the first gold-colored iPhone X. Apple released a limited edition PRODUCT RED version of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus a year ago (then discontinued it in the fall) so introducing a new color mid-cycle is not outside of Apple’s playbook.

Gold is currently only offered for iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, not iPhone X

Supply chain reports claimed correctly prior to the iPhone X launch that gold would not be ready for release in November, and new evidence today suggests a gold iPhone X could be around the corner, but this could also be saved for a second-gen version of the iPhone X in the fall.

Other new hardware will almost certainly be saved for future events later this year including new iPad Pros with overhauled designs and Face ID, second-gen AirPods with voice-activated Siri, over-ear headphones from Apple, and potentially new MacBook Pros. A new modular Mac Pro and high-end display from Apple is also promised for the future, but we expect only a teaser at WWDC at the soonest if even then.

As ever, stay tuned to 9to5Mac for full coverage of Apple’s education event for up-to-the-minute news and analysis!


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