The Chromebook doesn’t yet feel as ubiquitous a household portable technology as the Apple iPad but research firm IDC has released Q3 shopping data showing more were sold to education customers compared with the iPad. The sales figures are close, 715,000 Chromebooks to 702,000 iPads, and this is the first time the Chromebook has overtaken the Apple’s tablet offering. According to the UK business broadsheet, the Financial Times, Chromebooks now account to a quarter of the educational market. It’s easy to understand why: Chromebook retail prices start from $199 compared with the discounted price of $379 for the previous generation Apple iPad Air. Chromebooks also have a keyboard present and adding a keyboard case to the iPad further increases the cost (some schools require students to use a keyboard case with their devices). And finally, the Chromebook is easier (and therefore cheaper) for the school IT department to manage compared with iOS.
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Taking these points individually, the cost implications are significant. Picking Chromebooks compared with the iPad saves the school a considerable amount of money. It’s almost half before we factor in the additional time cost involved from the IT perspective. Schools and educational facilities are not bottomless money pits and this is an important consideration. As for the keyboard, this grows in importance with the student: thousand word essays are much easier to type with a physical keyboard. Another aspect of the Chromebook compared to the iPad is that it’s a less desirable device; it’s more a tool than a toy, so students are less motivated to find ways to circumvent the restrictions placed on the devices by their local IT departments. This last point reminds me of the Apple and Los Angeles Unified School District deal that fell through in 2013. It failed because of issues surrounding giving every student the iPad and how some students were figuring out how to bypass the restrictions. Since then, the Los Angeles Unified School District has supplied students with a mix of Windows laptops and Chromebooks.
It is not always about the hardware and operating system though! Apple’s iOS has more than 75,000 educational applications available on the App Store plus iTunes U, which gives teachers and professors an easy way to share lectures and custom courses. Google has launched Play for Education, which is essentially a customized Google Play Store showing only the educational applications. Having access to a wider range of educational applications is a tempting draw but as with any computing choice, users should pick the applications or functions that they need first then pick the hardware, rather than the other way around. So to my readers: does the school in your life use the iPad, the Chromebook or something else? Do you have a say in the matter, or do you simply have to open your wallet? Let us know in the comments below.