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News Corp wants to get into the education market and plans to introduce a tablet for students called the Amplify Tablet.

The Amplify Tablet will be a 10 inch tablet running Google Android with a custom user interface and educational software. It’s manufactured by Asus, but it will be sold under the Amplify brand (much like the Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet is sold by Google). It features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, an 8.5 hour battery, an IPS display, and a 5MP camera. According to the spec sheet, it’s “similar to the Asus Transformer Pad TF300TL),

The tablets will sell for $299 and up, and News Corp will also charge schools a subscription fee for software and support. A higher-end Amplify Tablet Plus, for students who do not have wireless access at home, comes with a 4G data plan and costs $349.

On Wednesday at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas, Joel Klein, a former New York City schools chancellor, who leads the unit of News Corporation made the official announcement.

According the the NY Times, the Amplify Tablet enters a market crowded with competitors trying to tap into K-12 classrooms, which spend around $3 billion a year on traditional textbooks, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal has a service called NBC Learn that uses material from NBC News. Apple has sold thousands of iPads to schools and analysts expect K-12 to become a larger piece of its business. Barnes & Noble and Amazon have both positioned their e-reader devices as options for schools.

iTunes U, launched in 2005 with a partnership with Stanford University, expanded in 2007, and then became a dedicated app last year. Over 1 billion eTextbooks have been downloaded from iTunes U over the last six years with over 1,200 colleges and universities and over 1,200 K-12 schools currently using the service.

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will make the case on Saturday, March 9, for the research institution as a partner and driver of innovation. The SXSW Startup Village consolidates much of what already happens at SXSW Interactive into one location.

Bill Gates was the headliner at SXSWedu, the newest of the SXSW events and the only one focused on education and technology.

Gates said that although most costs for educational technology are coming down, “Internet access is the most expensive piece” of edtech — even more so than student hardware devices. That, he said, has to change, since Internet access is not just important in the classroom, but for learning to continue at home.

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