Chromebooks Outpacing Microsoft, Apple in Classroom Battle

James Kendrick, reporting for Mobile News, says that schools in the last quarter bought more than a million Chromebooks.  Microsoft has announced its intention to soon offer a low-cost Windows laptop in the range of $199, in a direct reaction to counter the sales of Chromebooks, including Chromebooks for schools.

With an average price of $200, Chromebooks fit well into school budgets rather than involving administrators in the long-term grant solicitation process.

Another plus for Chromebooks in a school setting is that Google provides a maintenance-type agreement that replaces non-working devices at no additional cost.  This is a valuable asset since students are notoriously hard on devices, and replacements are always part of the equation.

Microsoft does not have such a turn-key program for schools in place, so it faces a battle with Google over getting its laptops into the classroom.  David Andrade, CIO for Bridgeport Public School district in Connecticut, is pleased with the addition of the 9,000 Chromebooks in his district.

“The affordability and easy maintenance of Chromebooks clinched the deal – we could buy three Chromebooks for the price of a single desktop computer and the district’s small IT team wouldn’t have to struggle to keep up with the repairs and updates on aging PCs,” Andrade said.

These factors made it possible for Bridgeport to give every high school student a Chromebook.  What makes this significant is the fact that 95% of this district’s students receive free or reduced price lunches.

Conner Forrest, writing for website TechRepublic, adds that there is another reason why school sales are so important to technology companies.  Students who learn on a certain platform will more than likely remain with that platform throughout their educational career and their working career. One report says that in 2013 Google won 20% of the education market.

“With the advance of the web, a lot of the learning material, traditionally only available at library or bookstores, is now available at the fingertips,” said Ken Lin, an engineering manager for the Chrome education and business team. “We are seeing a huge trend for classrooms to adopt technology, because it helps teachers to teach better, and enables kids to access knowledge like never before. We are very excited for Chromebooks to be part of this trend.”

Another factor that makes Chromebook attractive to school systems is the ease with which it can be deployed.

“As we became more familiar with the Chrome OS and the enhancements offered from its frequent release cycle, the number of items requiring intervention prior to distribution dwindled to merely asset tagging the machines, and logging in one time to join them to our organization,” said Adam Seldow, executive director of technology for Chesterfield County Public Schools. “All of the device and user settings flow to the machine instantly upon the user’s initial login.”

Chromebooks are beginning to compete with iPad for room in the classroom, says Samantha Murphy Kelly of website Mashable.  For one thing, Chromebooks have a physical keyboard making it easier for students to create content.  Also, Chromebooks update automatically and are cloud-based (Google Docs and Drive) which is free and minimizes software upkeep.

Google will also offer free Google apps to education systems, which can, potentially, save up to $5,200 per device over three years, says Sarah Kuranda of The Channel Company.