The Battle for Edtech Dominance Heats Up, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Apple’s latest move to recapture its foothold in education with their announcement of a new education-focused iPad at $299. If you read my blog post, I expressed some skepticism about Apple’s ability to move the needle back in their favor.

Well, it appears that Apple isn’t the only company looking to increase their share of the K – 12 edtech market. Just last week, Microsoft announced their new Windows 10S operating system, an OS designed with many of the same features available in Chromebooks. I can’t help but see the irony in this move, considering Microsoft’s dismissive approach towards Chromebooks when they first came out several years back. Here are some of the big takeaways from their announcement:

  • Devices running Windows 10S will boot in less than 15 seconds.
  • All apps that run on a Windows 10S machine must be downloaded from the Windows store.
  • While you will be able to download other browsers from the Windows store, Microsoft Edge will be the default browser, with Bing as the default search engine.
  • All machines will ship with a free subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition.
  • All machines will include free Office 365 with Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based communication tool built into Office 365.
  • Management features will enable IT administrators to set policies, push apps, determine user-level permissions, and allow for the transfer of user settings across shared devices.
  • Windows 10S devices will be available this summer, starting at $189.00.

Hardware aside, I think one of the biggest challenges that both Apple and Microsoft face is just how entrenched Google’s G-Suite platform has become in today’s classrooms. Google Chromebooks are simply optimized to work seamlessly with G-Suite. That, combined with their ease of use/management and low cost have really driven sales of Chromebooks in K-12. In fact, this was the topic of a recent EdWeek Marketbrief Article that analyzed some of the trends associated with the biggest players in the Edtech sphere. When a sampling of educators were asked what productivity tools they most frequently used in the classroom, 68% responded they use G-Suite and/or Google Classroom. The graphic below shows the complete distribution of responses.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft: How 4 Tech Titans Are Reshaping the Ed-Tech Landscape.
N.p.: Edweek Marketbbrief, n.d. PDF.

When asked why they chose Google, educators pointed to ease of use. Google’s products simplify teachers’ work rather than making their jobs harder—a standard that countless ed-tech products flooding the market fail to meet. Generally speaking, educators also seem convinced that Google as a company is the most education-focused of all the big players.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft: How 4 Tech Titans Are Reshaping the Ed-Tech Landscape.
N.p.: Edweek Marketbbrief, n.d. PDF.

When you look at the entire package – learning platforms, commitment to education, hardware – it’s no wonder 42% of those surveyed responded that Chromebooks are the most frequently used hardware for instructional purposes.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft: How 4 Tech Titans Are Reshaping the Ed-Tech Landscape.
N.p.: Edweek Marketbbrief, n.d. PDF.

Our district decided to go with Chromebooks when our 1-1 program started in 2013 and, I’ll admit, I have a strong bias in favor of Google. However, the data continues to show that I’m not alone in this thinking. One thing is sure, Google will need to continue to innovate in the area of education if they want to stay on top. It was only a few years ago when Apple was the dominant player and it certainly doesn’t take much to shift the landscape. Of course, competition is a great thing and hopefully this battle will ultimately benefit our students.