Next week Apple is set to make some announcement regarding education. No one is sure what exactly it will entail, but Apple has seemed to try and set our expectations that it will not involve the new iPad 3. All indications seem to point to something involving textbooks and iTunes U.
But wouldn't this be a great time to introduce a cheaper, education focused ePad?
When Apple released the eMac in 2002, it was somewhat a barebones version of the iMac at the time. It featured a white streamlined case, and older (though flat screen) CRT while the new iMac got LCD technology.
To lower costs, I could see Apple using a plastic back on an ePad, and white would mesh well with their past in educational products. I would expect it to keep the current iPad 2's screen resolution while the iPad 3 upgrades to a Retina display. The processor would be the A5, as those are probably getting cheaper and cheaper for Apple to produce.
Storage would be the bare minimum Apple offers - 8 GB - as all they would intend this to be used for is textbooks, educational apps, and internet access. Perhaps a 16 GB version would be available as well.
Price / Availability
Apple is doing mighty fine selling their iPads for $499, but an ePad may sell even better for $299. The Kindle Fire is an oft mentioned competitor when it comes to price, though at $299, an ePad could be easily justified over a Fire to the student type - especially if institutionally approved textbooks come with.
The eMac went in and out of public availability throughout its life. I would expect an ePad to follow suit, at first being available to educational institutions only, then trickling out to the public once demand is at screamingly high levels.
I'm just riffing here, but it would make sense for Apple to further attach itself to the education realm. The eMac was intended to make Apple computers more affordable for schools. Currently, the iPad has been that computer for many institutions. So they've already been embraced by schools who can afford to add a few to their labs and classrooms, but I'm sure Apple would rather no child is left behind, and each student tote an ePad in their backpack.
There has been zero indication from anyone reliable that any new hardware is coming next week - but maybe Apple is planning an old school surprise. Will next week be the announcement of the ePad? Who knows! But it's fun to guess.