Google Chromebooks trump Apple iPads in schools, says IDC

While some might contend Google's dominance in certain markets, like smartphones and tablets, there is one sector where Apple's products usually reign supreme: education. Initially a source of controversy because of price, iPads have become the gadget of choice for schools upgrading to current technology. But apparently, not anymore. According to IDC's latest figures, Google's Chromebooks have surpassed the iPad in shipping numbers as far as schools are concerned, revealing a shifting preference and mindset in the education sector and probably a new source of worry for Apple.

The lead isn't exactly gargantuan, with Chromebooks leading by 715,500 units shipped versus the iPad's 702,000. Still, the victory is significant for Google, as it is the first time it has surpassed Apple in those figures. It helps that Chromebooks, at least most of them, are sold at a fraction of a price than a single iPad. Chromebook makers like Acer, Dell, HP, and Samsung are also quite persistent in marketing the "thin laptops" to schools. Chromebooks are also touted to be easier to manage by the school IT administrator compared to iPads. And lastly, in an educational setting, a keyboard is clearly a winner, though the iPad trumps the Chromebook in general usefulness and portability.

Google's win isn't clear cut, however. IDC's numbers only compare the iPad specifically against the Chromebook. When you factor in MacBooks, however, Apple retains a hold in schools. That, however, might soon be changing as well, as more schools are looking for more affordable alternatives. And when it comes to price, Chromebooks are the devices to beat. Unless you start factoring in the recent growth of cheap Windows 8 tablets and laptops.

There is still another way for Apple to come out as the victor. When looking at tablets in general, Apple's ecosystem comes out on top, with a larger selection of educational apps in the iTuens App Store, plus its iTunes U platform. Google, however, is trying to catch up, albeit a bit slowly, with its own Google Play for Education campaign.

The education sector is a cash cow for many of these companies, considering devices are purchased in bulk and usually with years of contracts and other arrangements. Once dominated by Microsoft and Windows, the ground gave way to Apple and its iPad tablets. That market is seemingly undergoing another shift, this time away from Apple, but it is still a bit too early to tell if Google's lead will become a more regular pattern, or if it is just one-time thing.

SOURCE: Financial Times