Apple CEO Cook on Google Chromebooks in U.S. schools: We’re not interested in making ‘test machines’

“Google’s Chromebooks have overtaken Apple products as the most popular devices in American classrooms, but Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will not be following the search giant’s approach to the education market, which has been a stronghold for Apple since the early days of the Mac,” Molly Hensley-Clancy reports for BuzzFeed News. “‘Assessments don’t create learning,’ Cook said in an interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday, calling the cheap laptops that have proliferated through American classrooms mere ‘test machines.’ ‘We are interested in helping students learn and teachers teach, but tests, no,’ Cook said. ‘We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level.'”

Apple’s “education market share has been snatched away by the Google-branded Chromebooks, which are outselling not just Apple but everyone else in the tech business. By the end of 2015, according to Google, there will be more Chromebooks in schools than all other devices combined,” Hensley-Clancy reports. “Cook’s comments hint at one major reason for the rapid rise of the Chromebook: the computerization of standardized testing. With many states in the process of shifting their annual tests to computers and away from bubble sheets, school districts needed to buy devices quickly, cheaply, and in large numbers — enough to accommodate whole swaths of the school at once during testing weeks. Keyboards, when it comes to tests, are an absolute necessity.”

“Testing alone does not explain the surge in popularity of Chromebooks, which had just a 1% share of the education market in 2012. They are less than half as expensive as iPads,” ” Hensley-Clancy reports. “Cook said iPads are set apart from the competition by their education-focused native apps and integration with school curriculum. Chromebooks run all their software through a web browser, requiring a virtually constant internet connection and limiting the ability to use custom-made software or apps.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As has been proven many times over, the best product very rarely leads in market share. Smart, quality schools equip their students with Apple iPads. Testing mills only have Chromebooks.

In a job interview, always ask candidates what types of technologies they used not just in college, but in grade, middle, and high school. Their answers will help you to weed out the rote memorizers while revealing the rarer critical thinkers. That one question will lead you to the right hiring decisions more often than not.

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36 Comments

    1. I can understand loyalty to Apple, to a point, but come on!

      Have you sat down, from the perspective of a school, and looked at the iPad vs. a ChromeBook? There is NOTHING that a ChromeBook cannot do, that an iPad can. NOTHING.

      You might like the UI on the iPad better, or you might like Apple’s ecosystem better, but from the perspective of an educator you’ve got Google’s ecosystem which is much better for actually doing WORK than is Apple’s. In fact, if you go with iPads, chances are you’re still going to use Google’s ecosystem for education.

      Teachers set up entire classes on Google Apps and manage them from their ChromeBooks.

      Students can use cheap Chromebooks in the classroom, and access their classroom work at home on personal computers, chrome cast, even iOS devices. No need to carry devices back and forth.

      It’s not just a “test machine” and Cook sounds like an idiot saying that. It’s running Android and any application that people wish to write for the ChromeBook can be written.

      The thing I hate about the ChromeBook is that it makes so much sense as an alternative to the iPad in Education.

      1. I would reverse that to say: ‘There is NOTHING that an iPad cannot do, that an iPad can. NOTHING’

        You’re referencing the combination of Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom. Google Apps for education includes Docs, Sheets, and Slides, along with Gmail, Calendar, a web creation app, Google Drive and a couple of others. Google Classroom is Googles alternative to iTunes U. They have similar functionality, but iTunes U handles more types of files and is MUCH better integrated into the iOS, Mac, and yes Windows systems. All iPads come with Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, Garageband, Photos, Mail, Calendar, iBooks, FaceTime, Notes, and iCloud Drive to name a few, along with access to millions of QUALITY apps that take advantage of the hardware (camera, mic, accelerators, touch interface, etc) supplied by the iPad. iPads not only have access to YouTube, all of Goode services, and MS Office apps, but a wealth of educational resources from the enormous iTunes U catalog- the resources from which can easily be integrated into lesson plans (which can be shared with iTunes U), assignments, hand-in features, etc. Throw in the free iBooks Author, and teachers can design, literally, interactive books which allow for trackable learning, feedback and easy content creation. In all, it makes for a much more robust experience, much more potential for creativity and innovation, and, dare I say, development of a true learning environment. If you factor customer service into the equation, nobody beats Apple.

        Here’s Apple’s example: http://www.apple.com/education/

        Here’s Google’s example: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/classroom/

        The ‘stories’ posted on each site are dramatically different, with Google focusing on an example of students and a teacher collaborating live on a Google Docs document. Apple- exemplifies creativity potential.

        So very simply, this comes down to initial cost- none of the IT people making the decisions care much (or perhaps know much) about the solutions being offered. They just know that students can collaborate on documents with Google, and it satisfies their curriculum objectives.

        1. Though the iPad can do a lot more offline, the Chromebook functions fine for a large range of offline web-based apps. Not as limiting as you first think when you actually use one.

    1. The problems is Apple loosing education deals and may be business deals as well because of bean counters running the show. Apple isn’t doomed, but its sales that are hurting and young people not having experience with an Apple device, but instead a crapbook.

      1. Indeed the effects of this may become more widely spread as these students enter the work place which after all MDN and others have long said was a strong influence on Mac/iPad sales post school.

        Doesn’t say much for Windows though does it which in theory should offer much more at not dissimilar prices.

  1. I respectfully disagree! Chromebooks are coming on strong and I warned about that a few years ago. Schools are buying them like crazy and are more functional and more familiar to people than an iPad that is twice the price. We are starting to buy them and have everything on VMware now. So now we can hand out students a $200 chromebook and have them remote into our servers and get our image and run Windows and all the software we own on them very cheaply. This lets us get rid of labs and takes alot of the expense off of the school of having to maintain labs and gives us more rooms to use now freeing up space. Personally I think they are junk, but money talks when it comes to business!

    1. This is exactly the mindset the MDN take is referring to. Fact 1: there’s nothing that you’ve mentioned regarding setup, logistics and management of devices in schools that can’t be done or hasn’t been done with iPads and other Apple products. There are PLENTY of solutions there- JAMF software being a popular go-to. So this is faux argument #1. Fact 2: the education solutions available for an iPad environment is MUCH more robust then for Chromebooks/Google apps. The amount of creative consumption and productivity possible on iPads far outshines what can be (and is) done with Chromebooks et al. Just look at the examples presented on the respective websites for more info. Fact 3: it ALWAYS comes down to initial cost. Well, welcome to the 1990’s. Haven’t we learned our lesson regarding TCO, value and longevity (IBM recently reported on such a paradigm)? For instance, what about service? Who’s responsible for servicing that ASUS Chromebooks with Google apps loaded if something goes wrong? ASUS? Google? Best Buy? With Apple, reliable service is second to none. It’s all theirs- software and hardware. Also, Chromebooks may be cheap, but don’t be fooled by the $199 price tag that’s often thrown around. They are that cheap for a reason- they’re total crap. Many/most school systems settle for the mid range- $300-$500- simply because the cheaper versions suck. So it’s all about initial cost, and ease of use for biased IT admins, NOT about educational experiences of our children. That said, the Google model of cheap/free is winning.

      I could easily go on. Disclaimer: I’m associate program director for a residency program in Pa. I’ve just completed my research for a tech in education (digital citizen) project at my institution. I’ve scoured through numerous articles, podcasts (highly recommend ‘Out of School’ podcast), and various other pieces of info. I’ve interviewed the IT managers at the school my kids attend- they went the Chromebook route 2 years ago- along with a number of teachers. I’d be happy to share my results with anyone who may be interested.

    2. “Schools are buying them like crazy and are more functional and more familiar to people than an iPad that is twice the price.”

      More functional? Are you trolling, or just clueless?

  2. My children’s school is practically all-Apple. With the exception of a few Windows desktops in the administrative office (due to some legacy custom apps), everyone else has either iMacs or MBAs, including every child from 5th grade through the 4th year of high school. Kids get their own MBAs (to take home) at the beginning of 4th grade and it stays with them until they graduate (or Mac is replaced with a newer one).

    The amount of Mac software used for education is in fact rather impressive. When the school board debated which platform to choose to give to each child, ChromeBooks had some powerful advocates on the special experts panel. The division was apparently 5 very vocal Windows fans; 4 even more vocal ChromeBook advocates and only two Mac Heads. In the end, no matter how they presented their case, it was practically impossible to defend against the financial, educational and business arguments for an all-Apple solution. Even with the overwhelming majority of anti-Apple fans on the experts panel, they unanimously recommended an all-Apple solution. In addition to the decision speaking volumes about the personal integrity of these experts (who managed to override personal biases when faced with a powerful argument), it also confirms what Apple has been saying (and doing) all along: for education, nobody has better solutions than Apple.

    1. Buying something other than Apple is by definition, something less than Apple.

      Cheaping out on the solutions used in Education, is also by definition cheaping out on the very future of the society.

      Don’t buy a cheap and nasty future, get the real thing. Don’t let your schools short change the future of the country.

  3. As the final weeks of the Holiday Sales season commence; go to the Apple store and look at the interaction children have with Apple iPads, phones, and laptops…..amazing how they pick them up and use them….
    As a footnote, watch young people draw and play video games on the iPad Pro. The BIG screen really makes an impression. Yes I know the Pro is expensive but quality costs more generally…..

  4. “In a job interview, always ask candidates what types of technologies they used not just in college, but in grade, middle, and high school. Their answers will help you to weed out the rote memorizers while revealing the rarer critical thinkers. That one question will lead you to the right hiring decisions more often than not.”

    That’s a bit unfair, MDN. Students and parents have essentially no voice in what technology their schools and school districts adopt. Moreover, it is simplistic to assume that a student exposed to only Windows or Chromebooks at school become, as a result, “rote memorizers.” Far more goes into a student’s education that merely what crummy tech their schools foist on them. For example, my kids used Macs and iPads exclusively at home, but were compelled to use Windows as their schools. Despite this, they remain firmly committed to the use of Apple tech, and their creativity is none the worse.

    1. Fairness is not what matters in hiring good talent. If the NBA was “fair” in hiring people, you’d have some people on crutches, others in wheelchairs, and some who are quads rolling around on robotic beds.

      When you hire talent, you want the best talent your money can buy, not what is “fair”.

  5. No matter how you look at it, this is simply another market Apple is giving away to rivals which will help devalue the company further. Apple needs to find some lucrative growth market apart from iPhones where being price undercut by rivals doesn’t hurt them. There’s probably no way Apple can convince schools to buy more expensive devices if they don’t have the money to do so.

    The way I see it is if Alphabet can cut into Apple’s hardware selling business then Apple needs to find a way to cut into Alphabet’s search and ad-click business. That would be fair enough give and take.

    Might as well face the fact that Apple’s product sales will have to be somewhat limited due to the higher pricing of their products. Apple will never be able to reach the majority of any market given its business model. Wall Street will pound this point to investors and Apple’s value will remain low.

    1. The most valuable company on the planet.
      95% of mobile industry profits.
      A HUGE slice of computer industry profits.

      So for…
      giving away to rivals
      never reach the majority of any market
      Oh gawd, not “marketshare” again.

      Who gives a crap? Well, you, I guess. But not me.

  6. Chromebooks are only one component. Google is providing web portals and development tools to schools and students at little to no cost. Students are spending a lot of time using gmail, Doc, Drive, calendar and other Google tools. While it’s a great long term strategy to combat and overtake M$Office, it’s also a way to condition them to the fact that the Chrome eco system is “good enough”. Hopefully Apple keeps a strong enough presence in Education to show that quality does make a difference. The back end is where the future lies in Business and education. The front end will become a ‘consumer only’ market. If Apple doesn’t pay enough attention to that back end Google may get too entrenched to overcome.

  7. Chromebooks are used because they are inexpensive and get the job done. If anybody want to give a bunch of middle schoolers MacBooks, go ahead, in two years you will have a bunch of trash. At that age, even the best gear cannot stand the onslaught of carelessness, negligence and sometimes meanness of these kids. Sorry, but any school administrator who paid for MacBooks when a Chromebook would do almost as much for 1/5 the price, should be ridden out of town. A MacBook might last 6 months or a year more, but not enough to justify the added expense.

    1. If by ‘get the job done’ you mean word processing and pushing assignments, you’re absolutely correct. And this is exactly what our educational system is designed to do, and are perfectly happy as long as those high school students do well on the SAT’s. This is what Cook is referring to, when he talks about ‘assessment or testing’ devices. Example: I have two kids in high school- a senior and freshman. They use Chromebooks and Google apps in the following manner: the teacher posts an assignment on Google Drive (or pushes it out); my kids read the assignment; they write a paper or answer questions using Google Docs; and hand the paper in. They’ve NEVER used any other apps or Google Slides or Google Sheets. The school system has purchased Chromebooks at $300 a pop so the students can write papers. THATS IT! One of the science teachers (and a personal friend of mine) just placed a request for more Android tablets (because their contract with Google prevents them from using any other new hardware with their Apps for Education program) because they can’t do what they need to do in chemistry lab with Chromebooks.

      This represents the dumbing down of our students- just like we did in the 1990’s. Part of it is the gov’t fault with their ridiculously archaic curriculum standards. But a big part is attitudes like yours- just enough to get it done. No room for creativity, and no room for innovation with the Chrimebook system. But hey, it’s less costly up front

      1. It sounds more like the teachers haven’t integrated the device into their lesson plans than any fault of the ecosystem. Giving full fledged word/sheet/presentation software to young kids may be overkill.. Look how many adults make full use of their own office suites. 😛

  8. I am a tech in a school district and I know first hand this problem. iPads are a much better device, can do so much more than a Chromebook. Only one problem is cost. Other is no physical keyboard required by the state for testing (added cost to buy keyboard). Main problem I’ve seen with iPads which is FINALLY and very recently solved hopefully, is management of iPads. It is cumbersome to install apps on a lab of iPads. We use Casper from JAMF and each student has had to have an Apple ID in order to assign them an app. What about iPads that are shared between students? No logins means no personalization on the iPad for that student. FINALLY Apple just changed it so I can assign apps to a device. Now look at the Chrome side…Each touchscreen chromebook costs around $200 + $30 for Google Management, which allows us to update all the chomebooks in the entire district with the click of one button, or to install testing software on them all at once, it takes one minute of my time. Argue THAT cost difference of man power to manage them. Apple could have fixed this a long time ago, but didn’t, and now they’re seeing huge losses in sales in education because of it. So SAD!!

    1. So what you’re talking about is sacrificing a quality educational experience for an easier IT experience…. Admittedly, Apple has some work to do in this arena. But they’re certainly not in the minor leagues here. Apple Configurator and JAMF certainly provide tools to manage groups of iPads, etc. And iTunes U has always had the capability to push all types of media en mass. Again, what it comes down to in school systems is what the IT department heads like- they base it on initial costs (because they don’t want to figure future costs or TCO), what makes their lives the easiest, and whatever they think is cool and popular to them at the time (web-based everything? Cool!!). Meanwhile, the parents (who happen to be the financiers of all of this) get no say in the matter, and the kids get expensive word processors. Again, welcome to the 90’s! Isn’t this supposed to be about quality education? How are the concepts of flipped classroom, spaced learning and creativity initiatives incorporated into the Google Apps for Education product?

      1. I see it as sacrificing a bit of quality in exchange for getting devices in more students’ hands for the same budget. Also since less funds need to be directed to IT a few more devices can be acquired. TCO includes cost of replacement which I would think also means IT time spent reinstalling anything needed for the device. In Chromebook’s case there is practically zero setup since you log in to a web based account. For iPads it will require a bit of time if a set of Apps need to be installed before handing out to the students.

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