Blog Post

Apple U: Education or Indoctrination?

Wednesday saw an interesting development in the academic world when Yale’s Dean of the School of Management announced he was departing for greener orchards. Specifically, Joel Podolny will be helping start Apple University, with a target time frame of early 2009.

Don’t get your application package together just yet, as the nature of what exactly is meant by “university” in this case remains unclear. Neither Apple nor Podolny are disclosing details of his engagement for the time being, in a typical move by the notoriously tight-lipped Cupertino.

There are a number of possibilities as to the nature of Apple U, ranging from the fantastic to the mundane. Let’s look at some of the ideas floating around  and see if we can’t drill down to some likely theories.

First there’s the possibility that the “educational initiatives” mentioned in Yale University President Richard C. Levin’s letter announcing the departure do not indicate something so grand as an actual school. Apple University could refer simply to Apple’s University marketing and sales programs, i.e. Apple (for the) University. If we’d heard the term “Apple Enterprise,” for instance, there’d be no confusion. Higher education market share for the computer company may be high, but their representation, in terms of being the platform of choice for the institution itself (i.e. faculty and administration), is still an area with plenty of growth opportunity.

Then there’s your pie-in-the-sky speculation, like the idea that Apple could be starting their own educational institution. This possibility actually has some legs, considering similar programs started up by other companies, like McDonald’s own Hamburger University, as Gizmodo points out. Animation Studio, Pixar, boasts a similar program, providing a template within easy reach of Steve Jobs, who sits on the company’s board of directors. Add to this the fact that Podolny is leaving Yale, not Scranton Community College, and it actually seems like not that bad of a bet. To add even more fuel to the fire, recall that only a few scant weeks ago Apple began a legal dispute with a Victoria, B.C.-based school over logo trademark infringement. The school’s main argument against the complaint was that it was an educational institution and consumer confusion was therefore impossible. In retrospect, this could’ve been a preemptive strike on Apple’s part.

An Apple school could vary in purpose. It might be an internal-only, staff/management training and indoctrination program, like the rigorous process of becoming a Subway Sandwich Artist. It might also be an attempt to get a piece of the burgeoning developer education market, which would help continue to expand the growing pool of applications available on OS X and the iPhone platform. Were it a distance education program, Apple could truly jump-start their uptake in business and commercial use, since accreditation and certification would be far more accessible to a much broader audience.

For now, though, we’ll just have to wait and see what Apple has in store for us in the Winter semester. I don’t know about you, but I’m requesting an copy of my official college transcripts and some recommendation letters from former profs, just in case.

8 Responses to “Apple U: Education or Indoctrination?”

  1. Actually, I was thinking along the lines of Chano. Apple is putting together an online learning initiative, combining all those great podcasts from all those great universities. Right now everything is separate, but imagine creating an Alexandria Library of knowledge? Wasn’t this what Google tried to do by photocopying all the books in Harvard’s Library Widener? Isn’t this far more interesting to have podcast classes, than digitized books?

  2. God give me patience. I thought there might be something between the ears of the folk at GigaOm. Clearly only a vacant space, a void.
    Prescription: a…void GigaOm perhaps to preserve one’s intelligence.
    What exactly does this post say? Did you even think about that before you Started writing?
    Your article does something only stupid people do. Looking with the mouth. Think about it (see THINK below).
    What is the point you are so laboriously making that was worth the effort to post on this site?
    Many words but no substance.
    Let me introduce you to an interesting word. THINK. Look it up chum. You won’t be disappointed.
    Here beginneth a lesson in intelligent extrapolation. May lead nowhere. May lead somewhere good. Never dull …. like your article for sure.
    Close your eyes.
    Look at Apple. Look at what it is doing in the markets it operates in.
    MO = EEDD.
    Enter. Excel. Democratise. Dominate but only because of user choice, not by imposition.
    Let users buy what they want. Don’t force them to accept what they are given.
    If life is a playlist, Apple helps you make it YOUR playlist. Like it? No? Pervert! Can’t handle the freedom? Sad.
    Do you get it yet liebling? No? OK. Close your eyes again.
    See the irresistibly good influence in Computing. Power, style, quality, value, reliable longevity and oooh such eeeease of use. User empowerment.
    See the incredible change for good iTunesMS is having in music, movie and TV markets. User empowerment.
    See the signs of democratising change at work in the mobile phone market. User empowerment.
    See iTunes University and what it is assembling free for Joe the Learner and fill in the blanks. The best teaching materials from the best Universities – eg Programming Tutorials from Stanford University. User empowerment.
    Ask yourself 2.5 questions.
    Q1 – Why would Apple spec out a fully blown top-management academic from an ace University?
    Q2 – Why would a fully blown top-management academic from an ace University even think of joining Apple even if the VP pay was sky high? Is he looking to focus on ignominy and ridicule as a career strategy?
    Need a prescription?
    Read carefully 3 times and sleep on it. You will awake enlightened.
    Now, answer the question. Why do you write such incredulous journobabble?
    Are you a professional ‘incredule’ (to coin a new word just for you)?

  3. yale student

    As a current student at the Yale School of Management, and thus someone moderately familiar with Joel Podolny’s teaching style, I can pretty much guarantee that the initiative has more to do with Leadership Development Program-type stuff and NOT some sort of position aimed at increasing their market share on university campuses. He has experience in starting a major transition in our own curriculum to something completely different, so I would assume that he’s going to Apple to provide teaching on team and social dynamics (his specialty), not a simple marketing boost.

    By the way, his nickname while at Yale…”J-pod.”