Apple pivoting iPad education strategy to regain its footing in face of Google Chromebook surge

“News that Google Chromebooks outsold Apple iPads in the U.S. education market shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Apple could yet make a come back,” Aaron Pressman reports for Yahoo Finance. “Schools ordered 715,000 of the much simpler and cheaper Chromebooks in the third quarter compared with 702,000 iPads, according to market tracker IDC. The quarter was the first time Chromebook shipments outpaced iPads in the education market.”

“Apple jumped out to an early lead in iPad sales to schools, but some districts have had issues integrating the multi-faceted tablets into their educational programs. In the most notable reversal, the Los Angeles Unified School district canceled a $1.3 billion iPad order amid numerous problems,” Pressman reports. “Apple already appears to have learned an important lesson from its education sales setbacks with the iPad. Instead of going after new billion-dollar contracts, one of the company’s latest iPad-in-schools initiatives involved giving almost $300,000 worth of devices to a small district in Pennsylvania. Students won’t get the devices until next year, after teachers and administrators have had a chance to plan how the devices should be used. The go-slow approach, with a focus on teacher training, fits with research about the most successful programs.”

“The Pennsylvania gift is part of Apple’s pledge to spend $100 million to aid poor school districts around the country. CEO Tim Cook in October said the company would give out iPads and Mac computers to students and teachers in 114 schools,” Pressman reports. “Apple’s donations, part of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, obviously bolster the company’s image but also will help promote the use of iPads in schools.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. Agree wholeheartedly. I love my iPad. But I am the only one who uses it. I am a computer technician for a school system and the biggest struggle we face is saving data when the system you are using isn’t really meant to be shared the way we need to share it. We have gotten around this some with using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. If we were doing a true one to one initiative, this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, my district did not go that route. This isn’t a criticism of Apple, that is just the way they designed the system.

      1. bmd

        I am a big Apple fan – helped my wife write a $150,000 grant to put in an iMac language lab in her school. But… when she received some $$ for computers and had to choose between 10 Chromebooks with easy individual login, or 5 iPads with no such option, she went with the chromebooks. I mean, what can you do?

        Apple really has to up its game here.

        1. No, no, no, no! Apple really should NOT chase the bottom line. The iPad is NOT a shared device; you don’t share your iPhone with others, and you don’t share your iPad either. That is the most fundamental advantage of the iPad over desktop computers; it is yours and only yours. Putting multi-user OS on an iPad would be exactly the same as putting it on the iPhone. It woudl fundamentally change the purpose of the device.

          Apple may be losing a few sales by not letting people share the iPad, but ultimately, they are getting much better consistency of the product line and purpose of use.

          1. Totally disagree. The amount of actual “personal” data that my fiancée and I would need to have separate for us both to use my iPad is trivial. Safari bookmarks, Mail, and little else (a few saved passwords in some apps, etc).

            With Touch ID, Apple could make it amazingly simple for multiple people to share an iPad, and I predict that they’ll do it in the next 2 years.

          2. I think they miss the point of the iPad entirely when they try to populate a shared device lab with them. They are one device per pupil, for all of the pupils classes. The single iPad replaces the 50 lb backpack and is a new workflow paradigm for education.

            And the school probably won’t be able to have a functional iPad-centric environment and have much control over the student’s activities with the device at the same time. Get over it. The same problem exists with a pencil. The students won’t always write or draw what the the school approves.

            A grant proposal to populate a lab with iPads should be rejected on its own merits.

          3. The problems is, it is not “a few” sales. Schools need more than iPads. I love my iPad, but I don’t use it for most of my work. For me, its not the lack of a keyboard and mouse, its the lack of a true windowed environment and access to a file structure. However, for schools the new SBAC testing that started last year required testing ALL third grade and up students on a test that required a keyboard. Yes, the software allowed using a BT keyboard, but that created additional problems. In my area, most school districts purchased Chromebooks specifically for the testing. I would guess that the majority of Chromebooks sold last year to schools were for the testing. I had hoped LA unified would show iPads were valid testing devices, instead it made it harder to sell iPads as a platform for testing.
            My school district was nearly 100% Apple for instructional computing. Every time some one wanted to buy cheap,( Windows – what else), a clear straight forward look at actual cost(not just initial cost, also support and longevity) and benefits always resulted in buying Apple. Chromebooks broke that. While I still think that longevity and durability are going to make the Chromebooks look much less attractive, the need to buy a lot of computers in a short amount of time to handle the testing broke Apple’s hold. We are a Google Apps district also and the tight integration with Chrome is a huge plus. While I dislike the Google environment and its casual collection of your data, it offers compelling educational benefits.
            Last year, my district bought 2000 Chromebooks and I am afraid the district may never again buy Apple laptops for student use.
            Apple makes the best personal computing equipment, period. But $900 for a MBA vs $300 for a Chromebook is a tough sell. Don’t bring up Mac Minis. We have Mac mini labs. Testing, however, requires we have enough computers in a class for every student to take the test at the same time. We can’t make every classroom into a computer lab or have a lab for every grade in our elementary schools. We can have a class set of Chromebooks per grade level and move them between classrooms.

      2. I’ve worked in Educational technology for 20 years, currently I am the IT director for a private school that is an Apple Distinguished School. Clearly you are doing it wrong.

        The iPad isn’t a shared device, it was never intended to be, never will be, why are you trying to use it as one? This isn’t a defect, it isn’t a problem.

        The problem you have is you took a device meant to be used a certain way and are using it in a manner it wasn’t designed to be used.. Why during the design spec phase of your planning wasn’t this identified and addressed? You should have bought MacBook Airs, or Pro’s, or Mini’s or iMacs if you needed multi-user devices. Frankly whoever approved your project should be fired for incompetence

        Let me fix your opening statement for you to more accurately describe your situation:

        “I love my iPad. But I am the only one who uses it. I am a computer technician for a school system and the biggest struggle we face is trying to put the square peg in the round hole, the systems we are using are not meant to be used the way we try to use them, so we struggle.”

        1. Truth

          Unfortunately what works for your school may not work for others. Not every school can give an iPad to each student. There is no real reason why they cannot be shared other than Apple does not provide an easy way to do so.


    2. Not just that, but Chromebooks are very cheap in comparison, and extremely flexible on the software side since its mostly cloud based. It is the way to go for education. In addition, because Chromebooks are so limited in scope, they are effectively more secure.

      1. They are anything but “Extremely Flexible” on the software side. They are far from secure, Google isn’t collecting all that data for fun, they are selling it. Try getting your data out of Google Docs, have fun..

        Chromebook’s may as well be boat anchors if you want to use them for anything other than creating corporate productivity drones. They use bottom dollar commodity hardware, have no horsepower to speak of and are useless without a connection to google. In a word: JUNK and that sir is what thieves do not want them…

    3. I’m starting to struggle a bit with the value of the iPad. I like it as a laid back device but for productivity it’s crap. Out of the box it’s a stillborn in this regard. And the screen is forever too small for any real productivity. It’s a great tablet… the best “tablet”… but that’s about it.

      In education I would not buy a bunch of iPads… I’d look more at MacBook Airs… or something like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 or better yet Surface Pro 3. The kids are supposed to be learning and they need some serious options for productivity.

      The other aspect of this is that iOS just hasn’t evolved really at all on the tablet. It’s still a blown up iPod Touch! I think this is really holding the iPad back at this point and this is something people need to talk more about.

      As much as I hate Windows I look at something like the Surface Pro 3 and it’s a no brainer for an education setting. Even after you buy a bunch of ugly stuff to glue onto the iPad to try and make it more productive, it’s still got a small screen, handicapped software, no precise pressure sensitive stylus, etc.

      And to top it off, so many kids have iPhones. The iPad being so similar… it’s literally a redundant device in some ways.

      So none of this surprises me. Apple needs to dump some serious innovation into the iPad.

      1. Strange, we have students winning national awards for things they produce on the iPad.

        We have digital textbooks, our students create impactful presentations with them, they author iBooks, they make wonderful videos, compose music, and do all the boring paper writing and practice with them.

        Our teachers use them for presenting, (wirelessly via airplay) mark-up, annotation, grading of work, communication with parents, entering attendance, keeping grade books and so much more.

        I think your head must just be too small to wrap around the myriad of ways they are used PRODUCTIVELY.

        1. While you can do productive tasks on the iPad it’s a gimmick compared to point and click devices. You simply cannot match the speed, power, flexibility and precision of a point and click device along with the software.

          Sure kids can do stuff like video and music… but the device is very limited and inefficient. While you can for example make a keynote on the iPad it’s absurdly slow and limited doing it on an iPad versus a computer.

          The SP 3 is more robust handling desktop applications with a pressure sensitive stylus. You can dumb down computing as much as you want but in the real world, people… businesses… use the trucks to get the job done. Kids need to prepared for the real world. I think the iPad is better for very young children but not highschool as much. Let’s get real: we have iPads in our pockets in the iPhone that we all use freely everyday.

          And no, you can’t make iBooks on an iPad.

    1. I think the IBM deal was incredible. Their Enterprise strategy is great, and Google, as always, is not raking in profits on … shall we say… netbooks?

      I feel like we’ve seen this story before.

  1. My children’s school established an expert committee to evaluate how to enable children’s learning by deploying computing devices on 1-to-1 model (one device per child, from grade 5 through high school). They evaluated Chromebooks, Windows, Macintosh, iPad and Android. After a long and careful consideration, my kids got brand new MacBook Airs. The justification document was long and detailed, but the bottom line was, Apple won in every category, from availability of software, to integration of software into classrooms, to security, reliability, support for web standards, longevity of hardware, ease of user support, etc, etc, etc. The panel had several Windows die-hards, and after seeing the numbers, even they voted for MacBook Airs (and their kids are now bringing home Macs..!!).

    Our kindergarten classes are using iPads, but only in the classroom (kids aren’t getting them to take home). The devices have been carefully integrated into the teaching methodology (together with ActivBoards, etc), and I can clearly see the positive results.

    When you do your due dilligence, plan and integrate correctly, nothing beats Apple’s educational solutions. When you don’t, it doesn’t matter which vendor you chose, it will be a disaster.

      1. Who are YOU to decide where your children are educated? You goddamn free choice fascist! I hope the county comes and takes your children because YOU are depriving them of Common Core curriculum and those great Assquatch, The First Yeti, yummy lunches!

    1. A lot of things actually do beat Apple’s educational solutions, and they know this. They’re working on it. A $1000 MacBook Air (out of the box) doesn’t beat a $200 Chromebook that is fundamentally easier to manage, MORE SECURE since it is a dumber device, etc. Security is just common sense. It’s a no brainer. A Macintosh is a far more complex general purpose computer. A Chromebook is nothing more than a window into the cloud. The Chromebook system has been called the most secure OS by security types for just this reason.

      Google Apps for education are much easier to deal with. Teachers can use Chromebooks (or not) to put lesson plans, homework assignments, etc. up on their websites. Entire schools can be run through Google Apps, and Apple just can’t do this.

      Is there more software for OS X than Chromebooks? Yes. Is there more Educational Software? I’d say no, about the same and people have been porting education related software to Chromebooks like crazy.

      I’m very surprised at the outcome of your school’s evaluation. My guess is that they were predisposed toward Apple and Macintosh, which I can understand, but outside of longevity, I don’t see how the MacBook AIR beats a Chromebook in Education based on the criteria you listed. Kinda weird.

      1. Your definition of “security” is flawed: to you, it means moving that responsibility from the device to someone else’s control. Relinquishing control of your data is rarely a more secure solution.

  2. The Chromebook era will not last long. I work in a school system that bought Chromebooks but shortly after buying, we saw the downside of these cheap devices. They break easy and the cost to fix them is the same a ordering a NEW one. JUNK

      1. This is an important perspective TM. It’s a practicality factor. Apple should have all those cracked iPads dumped at its doorstep in a baby basket with a note pinned on it:

        “I don’t want these babies. You take care of them!”

      2. See Predrag’s comments above on planning. It doesn’t have to be expensive to fix ANY electronic devices these days, insure them appropriately.

        My school:

        a. charges a tech fee, we use it to insure the devices (and purchase apps for the students to keep) from accidental damage, is costs less than $70.

        b. requires the use of a DOD spec impact resistant case. (Currently the STM Dux)

        In the event of a break, we email the claim, a couple hours later an electronic mailing label (Next day air) arrives, we print it, place the iPad in the box affix the label and send it off. 7-10 days later it is returned and re-issued. This isn’t hard..

  3. The other thing I’ve noticed is that no one steals the Chromebooks. No one wants them, which is kind of perfect for K-12. They accomplish their function, but are not an object of desire. No kids getting beat up and Chromebooks taken, no kids selling their Chromebooks.

    1. Wait, what???

      No One wants them, they are virtually useless, lose their value.. So… lets shoe-horn them into schools because you fear a kid might get beat up if they have more powerful tools, they might get stolen? What powerful “lessons” you have for today’s Sounds like Microsofts strategy in the 90’s, lets get corporations to give their old broken down windows computers to school to “help”. No thanks, lived through that era, no need to repeat it. Apple was the beacon then, they are now.

      Your post is pure nonsense.

      1. The point is that they have little value in the aftermarket world, but great value in education. I don’t want one, but for a student looking up her homework assignment and doing it they’re just fine.

        You’re going to have to face the “truth” “Truth,” it’s not the same as Windows vs. Macintosh. This is an entirely different comparison. It’s cloud computing vs. Macintosh, and ultimately the cloud wins for environments.

        Even in some businesses, Chromebooks may be the way to go. Call Centers of all types come to mind. Making sure technology is uniform across franchises is another.

        1. If by “great-value” you mean they can buy them cheap, therefore can get more. OK. (more shit is still shit) Doing any serious graphics intensive, creative tasks and you see very quickly how poor their commodity hardware is and how underpowered a device it is. Engaged learning thru utilizing technology is much more than productivity apps.

          Funny thing about my school, we have 1:1 iPads in 3-8 thru eight grade. We use cloud services extensively without problem on our iPads, just not Google’s cloud.

          We even have 3d printers that work with the iPad, 3d scanners than works with the iPad, science probes controlled by the iPad, robotics, drones, etc…

          And it is very easy to make MacBook Air’s Or any other macs “uniform”, DeployStudio, CasperSuite, Puppet, the list goes on..

          Mobile Device Management ensures our app set is uniform by grade level.

          1. TY for standing tall and speaking honestly about your experience and real world solution via strategic planning.
            Learning of your integration is very much appreciated.
            Some could, should, perhaps will take notice and adopt such in their locales

        2. Like Windows machines before them, Chromebooks are not “fine” if you desire to give your students well-rounded, versatile education in all liberal arts and not merely, reading, writing and math. iPads and MacBooks are modern multimedia tools that are far more versatile than any advertising-based netbook computer. And shame on the doofuses that are selling out their chdren’s souls to advertisers.

        3. If I understand you correctly, your summary is that schools, and many businesses, should use Chromebooks because they are “good enough”. My complaint with our education system is precisely that: we strive for every child to be “adequate”; mediocrity is our goal. We should do better than that.

  4. As with the ‘netbook surge’, most people are going to find the Chromebook lives up to its cheapness and doesn’t offer what most people want out of a computer. Watch and see!

    Meanwhile, the sky’s the limit with the iPad. The sky should be the limit for students as well. Buying Chromebooks for schools is a shot in one’s own head. Not a good idea. Honor the human head.

  5. – iPhone and iPad are the most personal devices, we can consider as an extension of our body. iPads are manageable with Mobile Device Management, fair enough for schools.
    – Apple have education in genes. Here is a video from 1985 : Google was founded in 1998.
    – Apple make products. For Google, you are the product. Can you imagine your child as a product?
    – for IT companies, often the education market is about the business. Pure box delivery, and money wire. For Google, is about data, which later will be converted to money.
    – but honestly, i think no one device will change the education. We need great device, great content and great teachers. Devices are tools only. imho.

  6. Don’t 90+% of businesses use the iPad?

    Isn’t the role of schools to prepare students for working in business?

    Therefore, shouldn’t schools use what businesses are using?

    I remember this argument from somewhere!

  7. Does anyone remember Apple’s education offshoot of the Newton … the eMate in the original clamshell container that had a built in keyboard. Maybe the same is needed for a school-based iPad?

    1. Yeah, but then remember what happened to the eMate: Oblivion.

      We’re returned back to the minor conundrum of whether the MacBook Air should have a touch screen, or whether to get a keyboard for an iPad. I’m deferring my opinion as I am entirely happy with… my new MacBook Pro.

  8. What Apple strategy for education and enterprise? Apple is selling personal devices to businesses expecting the businesses to adapt to the device and accept iCloud limitations. Great short-term uptake, but long term, i doubt Apple can keep charging a premium for a non-tailored solution. Must deliver specific features and services or drop the prices.

    Even more than ecucation, Apple really needs to get the Mac back into the hands of business owners. Apple seems to have no strategy for this.

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