Apple Computer has reaffirmed its interest in the education market with what it says is its first demonstration of the technology powering a "public display" system designed to foster a sense of community in schools and elsewhere.
Using a Mac 8600 server and two clients, which were a second 8600 and an eMate mobile computer, Apple officials at Macworld Expo showed how information could be gathered in the field for a project; for instance in the woods about bird sightings, using the wireless-enabled eMate. That information can then be sent via wireless connection in a text-only email to a server, and automatically appear on a large screen in a community's public space, such as a school's hallway, the officials said.
Apple's public display software reformats the text-only email to include logos, graphics and pictures, according to Kurt Schmucker, department manager of Visual Programming Research at Apple's Advanced Technology Group. The software "makes it formattable so that it fits on the public display," Schmucker said.
The software is browser-based and will run on non-Apple hardware, Schmucker said.
The user interface on the eMate and on the public display is as similar as can be, given the different resolutions of the screens and other inherent differences, Schmucker said. This similarity is important given the technology's intent of fostering a sense of connection, he said. "Students still feel they're connected to the same environment," he said.
The public display is not currently dynamic in terms of being able to show video or television, but Schmucker said that dynamic integration is one of the priorities for the software.
Schmucker also demonstrated what he said was Apple's advanced searching software based on the company's previously announced V-Twin search technology. The new searching technology culls keywords from whole blocks of text and searches a user-determined subset of Internet sites so that the response is filtered, which can be important to educators, according to Schmucker.
The public display and searching software are currently in separate betas in selected schools, and the technologies will be integrated sometime in the fourth calendar quarter, according to Schmucker.
The software may transition from the research labs to Apple's product groups during the first quarter of next year, Schmucker said. Timing for commercial availability depends on whether the product group decides to roll the software out as is or add additional capabilities, he said.
The structure of the commercial rollout has yet to be determined, but could include the release of just the software, possibly even as freeware, or it might be bundled with a third-party's LCD projector or take some other form, Schmucker said.
Apple can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.apple.com/.