For the first time, Google Chromebooks have outsold Apple iPads in schools across the United States.
According to recent data from IDC, Google shipped 715,000 Chromebooks to schools in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools in the same time frame.
Chromebooks now account for one quarter of the entire educational market. Laptops running Chrome OS have gone from zero to a quarter of the market in only two years.
IDC reports that the low cost of the Chromebook contributed to its popularity among school districts. While an iPad Air with the educational discount costs $379, Chromebooks begin at $199. School districts also enjoy the full keyboard that accompanies the Chromebook rather than the touchscreen on the iPad. While some schools do supply students with a keyboard for their iPad, that only increases the cost to schools.
In addition, IT departments tend to enjoy the simpler management of the Chromebook.
"Chromebooks are really gaining traction. The growth of Chromebook is a major concern for Apple's iPad. As the average age of the student grows the need for a keyboard becomes very important," said IDC analyst Rajani Singh.
While the touchpad offers a versatile use, the keyboard, it appears, remains an important part of productivity.
In 2013, Apple worked with the Los Angeles Unified school district to supply each student with iPad. However, that deal fell through after complications arose concerning how to hand out the devices, in addition to students discovering ways around the restrictions that had been set on the devices. Since that time, the school district switched tactics and has chosen to allow schools to decide whether to purchase iPads or Chromebooks, paying for the devices with school construction bonds. To date, 21 high schools in the district have opted for Chromebooks.
"We're trying to gear this around giving choices to the schools," said Mark Hovatter, who heads the facilities division for L.A. Unified.
The iPads, including curriculum and a three-year license, would have cost $768 apiece. The Chromebooks and curriculum are expected to cost $100-$200 less.
So far, the district has purchased 91,000 devices under the iPad contract. 650,000 were to be purchased originally.
Despite the rising popularity of the Chromebook, IDC reports that Apple still holds the largest selection of educational apps, with over 75,000 available on its App Store. In addition, the company makes use of its iTunes U, which allows teachers and professors to download lectures to share in addition to creating custom courses.
In order to compete with iTunes U, Google released Google Play for Education, which is a customized version of the Play Store featuring only educational apps.