The Battle for Edtech Dominance Heats Up

I read this week that Apple is now launching a new education-focused iPad at $299. This would appear to be in response to the latest sales statistics showing the continued dominance of Chromebooks in K-12, capturing 58% of the OS market share. Windows comes in at second with 22% while Apple is now lagging behind with a 14% market share. One can infer that the Chromebook’s low cost and ease of management are the two prevailing reasons why they have gained so much popularity since their inception in 2011. Check out my very first Bookcase blog post on this topic from last fall.

Getting back to Apple’s newest iPad offering, I remain skeptical that it will move the needle on their K-12 sales. According to the article I referenced at the top of this post, Apple has also partnered with Logitech to produce a ruggedized case and integrated keyboard, bumping the cost up to $399. This would seem to be an attempt to appease those that insist a keyboard is necessary for everyday work, including the volume of writing and research that students do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Apple’s suite of productivity tools, including Pages and Numbers, lacks traction in K-12 and doesn’t offer the tight integration of the G-Suite apps. I suppose iPad users could access the G-Suite apps on an iPad but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of using the Apple platform?

A valid argument could be made that the price point of $299 (or $399 if you add in the Logitech case), combined with the vast ecosystem of apps in the iTunes store, will tip the scales back in favor of Apple. I’m not sure I agree with this premise based on two advantages that Google has over Apple. First, the simplified management of Chromebooks is ridiculously easy. Our district has about 2000 Chromebooks and ease of management and granularity of settings is nothing short of impressive. We have lots of iPads too and, despite Apple’s efforts to streamline the process, management of these devices doesn’t come close to the simplicity of managing Chromebooks. Second, the new lineup of touch-enabled hybrid Chromebooks now support Android apps from the Google Play Store. I’ve tested out a few Chromebooks that support the Android platform and was able to push out some apps through the Google management console with ease. The process was very similar to how Chrome web apps and extensions are installed now. I do wonder how Google will handle paid apps. Hopefully they will allow districts to encumber funds to draw upon as well as delegate purchasing power as needed.

To summarize, Apple now comes in at a price point of $299, with the option of adding a ruggedized case with integrated keyboard for an additional $100. I’m seeing prices for touch-enabled, 360° hybrid Chromebooks starting at $277.99, with most topping out around $350. These devices have a true laptop form factor with a full sized keyboard and the ability to use them in tablet mode. Taking all this into consideration, I don’t see a compelling reason to pick Apple’s new iPad offering over one of the new convertible Chromebooks. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, click here for a comprehensive summary of the benefits of G-Suite and Chromebooks. I could certainly be wrong about where all of this is going – it will be interesting to see how this plays out over time.