On Thursday, Apple president and CEO Steve Jobs announced that the Cuppertino, CA computer giant will be issuing modified versions of its wildly popular iPad, the company's latest multimedia sensation, to as many as 5,000 Los Angeles middle and high school students currently languishing in what many educators school officials have dubbed "the digital divide."
The modified multimedia tablet - named the iHood for to its planned distribution to a select urban populace - will be given to pupils with exemplary performance on the "Steve and Me" essay competition given this past May, to underprivileged secondary students from across the L.A. Unified School District.
Jimmy Ortiz, a 12-year-old from Walter Reid Middle School in North Hollywood, and the overall winner in the eighth-grade division, wowed judges with his essay entitled "Steve and Me and My Uncle Rickey Who Watches Bridezillas All Day."
Said Ortiz, when informed that he would be among the iHood's recipients, "I already have one. A real one. Can I get a Playstation 3 instead?"
The spectacular, scholastically-themed three-hour multimedia extravaganza, held on the floor of L.A.'s Staples Center, was given to an eclectic audience of shareholders, school officials, and star-studded Mac enthusiasts, transforming the capacious arena into a virtual 21st-century urban public school classroom, complete with numerous muffled intercom interruptions promoting discounted yearbooks; a 25-minute halt in proceedings and subsequent emergency lockdown of the arena due to an undisclosed "campus incident"; an ongoing drug and weapons search of all attendees by a frantically giggling campus security guard named Dedrick; the persistent aromatic stew of tater tots, marijuana, and Comet; and a severe shortage of desks for the capacity crowd - prompting some luminaries to sit in aisles or on colleagues' knees.
Following a rousing recitation of Henry David Thoreau's "Inspiration" by Oprah Winfrey, a performance entitled "Ode to Isosceles Triangles" by the Blue Man Group, and an opening stand-up bit from comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld entitled, "Hey: What's the Deal With School?" Jobs addressed the audience by detailing the plight of disadvantaged school children throughout the blighted communities of L.A. County, adding, "The bottom line is, due to circumstances beyond their control, these kids are being left behind academically because their peers in more affluent schools are becoming increasingly more proficient in using the latest -" at which point Jobs' speech was preempted by a piercing false fire alarm and the subsequent announcement by an irate assistant school principal threatening three consecutive days of trash pickup for "the next individual found participating in any of these pointless and very un-adult shenanigans."
Moments later, Jobs continued his impassioned plea, undaunted: "On this day, and in continuing with our proud history as a company that exhibits a deep and abiding commitment to education and to America's youth, I am proud to announce that Apple Computers will be donating 5,000 brand-new .5 gigabyte iHoods to some of the neediest students from Los Angeles. With this donation, thousands of children throughout the Southland will now have a veritable world of knowledge at their fingertips for no fewer than 13 minutes at a time."
In addition to the tablet's 13-minute maximum battery life, Jobs then went on to highlight further functions that the scaled-down devices will provide for their young recipients, including the storage capacity to contain any of the following:
• Two Apple Store Apps
• Three digital photos
• Two podcasts
• 14 pages of text from any book
To compensate for the tablet's paucity of storage capacity, Jobs assured his audience that each iHood will come complete with an extra-thick rubber band that can be used to secure a portable CD player and library card, thereby giving the device multi-media capabilities comparable to that of the more powerful iPad models found in Apple retail stores.
Added Jobs, "Our goal here is not to replace books or even portions of some books -or even more than 14 pages of any single book."
Although Apple has an historically strong relationship with academic institutions, some critics wonder whether Monday's presentation was misleading - or, even worse, a cynical media ploy - due to the paltry discounts the company offers to the neediest individuals on the academic front: teachers and their students.
"Go ask Jobs how much of a discount we get for the pleasure of purchasing one of those overpriced contraptions," said Sanya Tillman, an Algebra and Geometry teacher at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. "I'll give you a hint: It's the same discount that Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson get."
When later asked by a reporter as to why students wouldn't be receiving a full-fledged iPad rather than the scaled-down iteration, Jobs shot back: "Or, what if you all dig into your respective swag bags right now and donate your new free iPads to these needy kids? No? Nobody? Not so much? Didn't think so."
Moments later, in response to the question of why a fully functioning digital tablet from one of its competitors wouldn't offer a distinct advantage over a severely compromised version of Apple's e-book, the already irritable CEO's response was once again immediate and terse:
"E-what? I don't think you understand. This isn't a book: It's a revolution."
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