Rupert Murdoch to exit ed tech after ‘innovative’ tablet fails to take off

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to move into the ed tech sector appear to be over. It has emerged that his company News Corporation is to sell off its digital education business Amplify.

News Corp launched its education arm back in 2010, taking on the world’s biggest tech companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google by introducing its own tablet computer.

The device came preloaded with curriculum content and was an attempt to disrupt the US’ vast textbook industry. It was hoped by News Corp execs that such tablets would be in the hands of every student across America. There were even discussions about launching the product in the UK.

It was Mr Murdoch’s first major attempt to re-enter the education world, having sold off what was then TSL, publisher of TES, in 2005. Since then, Mr Murdoch has estimated the education market as worth around $500 billion in the US alone.

But now it appears he is pulling out of the market again. News Corp’s latest earnings report stated that it had initiated a “strategic review of its digital education segment”. Now a leaked internal email from Amplify’s chief executive Joel Klein, made public this week, has confirmed that News Corp is looking for a buyer to take the education business off its hands.

In the email, obtained by ed tech website EdSurge, Mr Klein writes: “We are in active conversations with an outside investor regarding the potential sale of Amplify. We expect that this lead investor would be backed by Amplify’s management team, some of whom also plan to participate in the investment.”

But despite losses of $427 million in the past three fiscal years, Mr Klein still believes the Amplify tablet was ahead of its time.

“In my view, Amplify’s work has been so innovative and transformative that we’ve been ahead of the market,” he adds. “That, in part, helps explain what has happened with our tablet business. And it has played a role in the adoption of our digital curriculum.”

After paying $390 million to buy Wireless Generation, the company that developed the device, News Corp invested upwards of $1 billion in Amplify. And the appointment of Mr Klein, a former chancellor of New York City’s department of education and one of the biggest names in education reform, was seen as a sign of how seriously Mr Murdoch was taking the education business.

But after a disappointing start, reports claimed Amplify had secured just one US school district as a customer for its tablet devices.

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