News Corp is winding down sales of its custom-made tablet computers after few schools bought the devices, once central to the company’s goal of overhauling the US education system, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The media company is no longer ordering new tablets from its manufacturer in Asia, although it has stock on hand for existing school customers, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
By the end of this month, New York-based News Corp is set to have invested more than US$1 billion in Amplify, its education division, which sells a digital curriculum and testing services in addition to the tablets.
Few districts have bought the units, which can be used for classroom work, homework assignments and tracking student performances. The head of the tablet business left the company earlier this year.
“We continue to support our tablet customers and are still fulfilling orders for additional tablets,” Amplify said in an e-mail. The company said it “continues to receive and consider new contract requests” for the tablets.
The Greensboro, North Carolina, school district placed a US$14.6 million order for the tablets. The contract, which included service, is by far the largest one Amplify received.
Technical glitches marred their introduction in the autumn of 2013 and the district canceled the roll-out and tried again a year later with a redesigned device, Bloomberg reported in April.
Amplify said the feedback from the district had been positive with the revamped tablets.
Amplify said it is still committed to marketing its digital classroom materials to US schools.
It has received “several million dollars” of orders in the past 10 weeks for its software-based curriculum, the company said.
Amplify makes up about 1 percent of the US$8.6 billion in annual revenue of News Corp, which also publishes newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and competes with Bloomberg News.
School testing, a business News Corp entered in 2010 with the US$360 million purchase of Brooklyn-based Wireless Generation, is the largest part of Amplify’s revenue.
The testing business sells software that lets teachers gauge student progress and improve reading skills. Amplify also markets English, math and science curricula as well as educational games.
For the year ended June 30 last year, Amplify reported a US$193 million loss on sales of US$88 million. The loss narrowed 51 percent, to US$69 million in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, compared with a year earlier.
Earlier this month at a London investor conference, News Corp chief executive officer Robert Thomson said the company’s investment in Amplify would be “significantly lower” over the next year and praised the quality of the company’s curriculum.
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