In early 2012, Google announced that its Chromebooks for Education initiative was already a success. Later that year, the tech giant took it a step further by making Chromebooks available to schools for only $99. Now the laptops have become the number one technology in education, easily beating out Apple’s iPad.
The Guardian reports that Google shipped 715,500 Chromebooks to schools in 2014 whereas Apple shipped 702,000 iPads in the same period. It may seem like a close rivalry at this point, but the numbers show that iPad shipments are falling. Evidence also suggests that Chromebook shipments will only rise over the next few years. So, why has the Chromebook become so popular in schools?
PC World theorizes the Chromebook’s success can be attributed to price and accessibility. At only $99, the Chromebook is much cheaper than what Apple wants for an iPad. Considering that many school districts are strapped for cash, it makes sense that they would turn to Chromebooks when looking to integrate technology into the classroom.
As for accessibility, the Chromebook offers two advantages over the iPad. For one, it has a keyboard. Apple’s iPad does have a keyboard attachment, but it’s also expensive. With the Chromebook, the keyboard comes standard with the device and offers the kind of tactile input that students need when working on projects. It doesn’t hurt that much of the world still relies on computers with keyboards to get work done so it helps prepare them for that future.
The second, and perhaps most important, advantage is that the Chromebook utilizes a multiple account system. In other words, more than one child can use a Chromebook whereas the iPad has to be wiped clean every time a new student uses it. Apple’s account system works in its favor to ensure that it sells more devices to schools, but some schools would rather have multiple students use the same device. With a Chromebook, that’s entirely possible and far more enticing to a school that can only afford a set of Chromebooks for one class instead of every student at the school.
All of this isn’t to say that Apple will eventually exit the education market. There’s far too much money to be made. What’s going to happen is that Apple starts to focus more on high schools and college where digital textbooks are all the rage, or they change their account settings for schools so more than one student can use the same iPad. I’m betting Apple will focus on the former.