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News Corp education unit unveils Android tablet

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Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has moved into the tablet computer market, with a new Android slate aimed at schoolchildren.

Joel Klein, the chief executive of News Corp's Amplify educational division, officially unveiled the tablet at the SXSWedu conference on Wednesday (March 6).

News Corp's Amplify education Android tablet.

News Corp executive Joel Klein



He said that Amplify would not just sell its educational curriculum on existing tablets, but also offer its own 10-inch Android tablet designed specifically for school kids.

According to The New York Times, Klein also said that Amplify will provide schools with infrastructure to store their students' data.

Klein quit as chancellor of New York schools in late 2010 to join News Corp's nascent educational initiative.

In summer 2011, he agreed to shift focus to providing "important oversight and guidance" - as Murdoch put it at the time - in the internal investigation of phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World.

But almost two years later, Klein has returned to his original mission within News Corp - to lead the company's move into the public schools market.

News Corp logo
"When I left [as chancellor] I was convinced of two things," Klein said told The New York Times. "If we didn't see a dramatic technological change, we were not going to be able to move this country forward [and] second of all, that the private sector had to get much, much more involved."

The Amplify tablet is said to be a sleek, touchscreen device featuring a simple background and tools to focus kids' attention on learning. It also offers quizzes and educational games.

"There's a huge opportunity if you can get kids excited about educational games. You can change the learning curve," Klein said.

He added: "We understand technology and we understand education. A lot of people who understand technology don't understand education."

Amplify has already been testing its tablet in US public schools, but the launch this week is expected to start the big push on sales.

A pre-loaded tablet with training and customer care will start from $299, but a two-year subscription costs a further $99 a year.

The higher-end Amplify Tablet Plus, with cellular and WiFi access, comes with a 4G data plan and costs $349 when purchased with a two-year subscription at $179 per year.

Android logo
The Amplify Tablet and related services are being piloted this year in school districts across the US in collaboration with carrier AT&T.

Any tablet purchased by June 30 will be ready to use in American classrooms in time for the start of the 2013­/14 school year, said Amplify in a statement.

"Building a strong economy and a strong country starts with education," said Klein.

"Right now our students are lagging behind the rest of the world, and we've got to work faster than ever to catch up. That will require both the best teachers and the best technology."

Amplify says that schools will be able to finance the purchase of its tablets through Education Department's Race to the Top grant programme.

But some people are concerned that Klein, as a former public official, may have a conflict of interest in acting as a private sector executive.

"You can't at the same time go out and present yourself as a civic citizen talking about how public schools right now are horrible and then say, 'Oh, I have a product that is going to make it better'," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times.

Amplify says Klein can effectively balance his interests in the role, and has "long been a big supporter of education reform efforts".

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