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While Apple's iPad Still Dominates Education, Cheap Chromebooks are closing the Gap due to Core Requirements

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During Apple's April Financial Conference Call they quoted IDC as the source behind the educational statistic that 95% of the education was owned by Apple's iPad. In June, Google's Senior VP Sundar Pichai at their I/O developer conference tried to nibble away at Apple's statistic in education by zeroing in just the top 100 Universities and claiming that 72% had "gone Google." Today, we learn via IDC's art of statistics that Google has overtaken Apple in US classrooms. But that still has nothing to do with Apple's dominance in tablets in the educational market.


Apple, which declined to comment for the Financial Times' report, was acknowledged to still being dominant in tablet sales in education, according to IDC. More than 75,000 educational apps are available in the App Store, teachers can create courses in the free iTunes U app and publishers can make their own textbooks for the iBooks store. So that's not in dispute despite the dramatic headline.


The twist to the Financial Times report is that Google's dead-cheap Chromebook has overtaken Apple iPads for the first time as the most popular new device for education authorities purchasing in bulk for students.


Google shipped 715,500 of the low-cost laptops into US schools in the third quarter, compared with 702,000 iPads, according to IDC, the market research firm. Are those numbers firm? At less than 2% differential is it no more than a blip in time? Is it a statistical twist or is it a result from firm data?


The Financial Times report disappointingly focused on IDC's barrage of points about the educational market going with cheap alternatives. The report is confused by it not being about the iPad vs. Google tablets because there would be no story to tell on that point. And in higher education, Windows is still dominating with Windows notebooks. So the twist is just about Apple's iPad vs the cheap Chromebook which isn't a comparison at all. But they've twisted the headline to present Google with a magical winning hand.


One of the last points made by Rajani Singh, analyst with IDC, is that "While the iPad's touchscreen makes it a versatile device, the Chromebook's integrated keyboard is also a factor in its appeal. Ms. Singh added that "As the average age of the student grows the need for a keyboard becomes very important."


Yet that last comment by Ms. Singh about the importance of the keyboard isn't a complete truth by itself. In August we covered a report by the Atlantic who brought an important fact to the table regarding the education market in respect to devices in the classroom by stating that there had been a change in student testing where "Common Core online testing was going to require a keyboard." A full keyboard, not a virtual keyboard apparently.


That single requirement is having more schools look to both Chromebooks and 2-in-1 hybrid laptop-tablets. The report noted back then that "In September, Baltimore County, Maryland, will pilot a new hybrid laptop-tablet in 10 elementary schools. Over the last year, teachers and students there have had the chance to experiment with more than a dozen different devices, said Lloyd Brown, director of the information technology department. When Baltimore leaders asked if teachers wanted a tablet or a laptop, the answer was, 'Both.'"



We were first to report that Apple had been rumored to have been working on a 12.9" tablet for the education market in May 2013. We further reported that Apple could be considering a slightly smaller 12.2" iPad Pro early last month. Since then we reported on HP debuting a 13.3 inch hybrid tablet-notebook and their new 15.6" hybrid. In each report we've pointed to Apple having patent-pending iPad keyboard options on the drawing board and that Apple will likely introduce one of them in the coming year knowing that the Core testing is demanding that student work with a keyboard to prepare them for the market place.


We ended our report on the challenge of Core testing on the iPad in August by stating that the iPad was being challenged in many school programs across the US. How Apple intends to address this massive market and its shifting demands remains unknown at this time.


That's still the standing challenge today. While the new Financial Times report blurred the educational market statistics purposely to give Google's Chromebook the victory over Apple's iPad, the fact remains that Apple has to address the keyboard solution for the iPad sooner rather than later and/or introduce a full hybrid notebook-tablet to address the requirements set out by the Cores program.


But no matter how this is spun, as far as tablets go, Apple still has a stranglehold in the education market with Android tablets standing at best with a pathetic 5 or so percent. The fairer comparison would have been Microsoft still dominating the higher education market with Windows notebooks with the Google's Chromebook gaining ground. But that story wouldn't have gotten the attention the Financial Times sought.


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