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News Corp looks to usurp the iPad with 10-inch Android tablet for education

by Doug Drinkwater

March 6 2013

The 10-inch Amplify tablet was built by Asus
The 10-inch Amplify tablet was built by Asus

On announcing its restructuring plan last summer, News Corp launched a new division to focus on improving K-12 education. Today, that division (named Amplify) confirmed that will release its own tablet for schools.

Founded in July 2012, Amplify was initially established by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to develop digital learning materials, tools and systems for all students from kindergarten to the 12th grade.

Nine months have passed without so much as a peep of information from the company but that all changed today when the New York Times revealed that the company has made its own 10-inch Android tablet for K-12 schoolchildren.

In addition to this tablet and digital curriculum tools, Amplify will provide schools with the “infrastructure to store students’ date.” Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools and now CEO of Amplify, is due to reveal more on the announcement at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas later today.

Specifications on the tablet are not known at this time, although it has been confirmed that the model will be manufactured by Nexus 7 maker Asus and will run Android 4.1. It will also have eye-tracking technology (a stern “eyes on teacher” message pops up if the child’s attention wanders), while part of the tablet curriculum sees a quiz use emoticons of smileys and sad faces so teachers can easily check if students understand the lesson.

Teachers will be able to see if a student in looking at email instead of following the lesson, block certain apps from tablets and shut down digital access completely.

Amplify says that the tablet will be initially used for “blending learning” – a combination of traditional and modern teaching methods – and says that schools will provide tablets to students so they can take it home each night.

The company says that hundreds of public schools across the U.S. first tested the Amplify Android tablet in November and adds that a month later it was explaining the venture to potential investors.

The entry-level tablet with training and customer case (largely provided by former teachers) starts at $299 with a two-year subscription for $99 a year. The higher-end Amplify Plus is for students who don’t have wireless at home and hence comes with 4G data plan. It will be available for $349.

Amplify expects the tablets to eventually contribute to 40% of the division’s revenue with another 40% coming from Amplify’s tablet-based curriculum.

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