As rumoured, Apple has unveiled an aggressive back-to-school promotion: College students, faculty, and staff who buy a qualifying Mac — at their education discount — are eligible to get a free 8-gigabyte iPod touch, a $299 retail value. (In previous years, Apple has limited this promotion to cheaper iPods.)
While potentially damaging to Apple’s (AAPL) margins, this is a smart move. In the short term, it will seed Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch app store with more potential shoppers, which could lead to some incremental revenue (if little profit) for Apple. (It will also probably help sell more Macs.)
But more importantly, it will also help Apple push their idea of the iPod touch as “the first mainstream wi-fi mobile platform.” The iPod touch comes with a powerful Web browser, email and maps software, etc, and college campuses are covered in free wi-fi, inside and out. So they’re as good a place as any to get people hooked on the idea of using their iPod as a micro computer — which, if successful, could lead to a wider range of multi-touch Apple tablets.