After attempts to stake a big claim in the digital arena via also-ran MySpace and the now-defunct The Daily newspaper, News Corp. is headed into the classroom. Its new Amplify Tablet computer designed specifically for schools is being unveiled at SWSWedu in Austin today. Geared towards the K-12 market, the tablet is aimed at transforming “the way teachers teach and students learn,” Joel Klein, CEO of News Corp.’s education division, Amplify, said. Klein has experience in the field: he headed the New York public school system before joining Rupert Murdoch’s company two years ago. Interest in digital learning is at a high and News Corp. is looking to tap into the dollars being spent on technology by U.S. schools. Tablets will come loaded with features that allow teachers to plan lessons, prepare quizzes, send assignments, share multimedia resources and manage their students’ devices. They’ll cost $299 per year per student for a WiFi-enabled device, when purchased with a two-year subscription at $99 per year. There’s also a 4G model for $349 with a $179/year annual subscription. (By comparison, the iPad2 costs $399.) Amplify execs expect a $180M operating loss for the first year, The New York Times reported.
News Corp. is forging ahead with the Amplify tablet as it continues to try and distance itself from its troubles in the UK. In 2010, News Corp. acquired a 90% stake in Wireless Generation, but later lost a contract to build a student data system for New York when the comptroller raised concerns about the phone-hacking scandal in Britain. Klein told the NYT, “The company dealt with the phone-hacking thing with enormous praise from Lord Leveson,” who led the inquiry into UK media ethics. (Amplify will be part of the spun off News Corporation publishing company when the conglomerate splits in two later this year).
For the moment, rivals have said the Amplify tablet isn’t bringing anything that new to market – many of the features are available via Web-based software that can run on iPads and other devices, according to Reuters. Scott Kinney, SVP of Discovery Education, told the news agency, “There’s still a lot of experimentation going on. Do I think there will eventually be one winner? I doubt it.”