Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms to cheap Chromebooks

“Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms, which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life.,” Natasha Singer reports for The New York Times. “Over the last three years, Apple’s iPads and Mac notebooks — which accounted for about half of the mobile devices shipped to schools in the United States in 2013 — have steadily lost ground to Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system and are produced by Samsung, Acer and other computer makers.”

“Mobile devices that run on Apple’s iOS and MacOS operating systems have now reached a new low, falling to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Microsoft Windows devices, according to a report released on Thursday by Futuresource Consulting, a research company,” Singer reports. “‘Apple is struggling,’ said Mike Fisher, an education technology analyst at Futuresource.”

“The rise of Google’s Chromebooks has disrupted the momentum of Apple, which has been marketing its computers to schools for some 40 year,” Singer reports. “Chromebooks run apps through Google’s cloud-based Chrome operating system, making them cheaper — and often faster to boot up — than traditional laptops that rely on hard drives.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: While we lose the next generation of personal computing, can we interest you in a high-priced, backwards-looking coffee table book instead? No? How ’bout an effing Christmas tree?

Actually, it’s not quite that dire, but Apple needs to address the issues their products are facing in education posthaste. Shortsighted sticker-price buying has always plagued the education market and, as we all know, competing on sticker price is not Apple’s strong suit. Newsflash: Apple makes premium products at premium prices for premium users. Apple must continue to ensure that the highest quality schools are choosing and using Apple products, not cheap Chrome junk.

As we wrote last May: The cream-of-the-crop schools, like the cream-of-the-crop consumers and corporations, deploy Apple Macs and iPads, not cheapo plastic Chromebooks.

Unfortunately, too many U.S. public schools, unionized in the worst possible way, are broken through and through.

As we wrote back in January 2016: There is no easy answer for a company dedicated to quality to compete in a market that’s hellbent on shortsightedly wasting taxpayers’ money on cheap, shitty junk.

Google’s Chromebooks outsold Apple’s Macs in the U.S. for the first time – May 20, 2016
Why iPads are losing to Chromebooks in education, and what Apple needs to do about it – January 13, 2016
Should Apple make a ‘CloudBook’ for the education market? – January 12, 2016
Can education give Apple’s iPad a much-needed sales boost? – January 12, 2016
Apple delivers multi-user support for iPad – in schools only – January 11, 2016
Apple loses more ground to Google’s Chromebook in U.S. education market – January 11, 2016
Why Apple devices are losing share to Chromebooks in U.S. public schools – December 23, 2015
Apple CEO Cook on Google Chromebooks in U.S. schools: We’re not interested in making ‘test machines’ – December 11, 2015
Apple pivoting iPad education strategy to regain its footing in face of Google Chromebook surge – December 5, 2014


  1. Give Apple a break. They don’t have enough money, talent, or resources to do more than one thing at a time. Heck, everything has to go through a couple of VPs. And Cue is one of them, so that is like actually losing two VPs.

    1. But hey… they are getting a fantastic grip on who can pee where!

      This school/edu thing is going to come back and bite them in the ass BIG TIME if they dont get their act together.
      Negligence in this area may not show its effects immediately… but in a few years, suddenly, BOOM 💥 followed by ‘oops what just hit us.’😳

      Do not lose the kids mindshare and respect Apple…. … they will be the ones calling the shots down the line.

    1. Sorry, but even the higher income schools are abandoning Apple products for the classroom, and Chromebooks are winning. At some point, with the inherent damage probability with school supplies, it’s almost forgivable to put the cheapest alternative in harm’s way. (And, boy, are those Chromebooks cheap pieces of shit, regardless of manufacturer!) It’s too early to say whether or not repair budgets will ramp up the total cost of operation, but they might.

    2. If you were one in charge of the budget, deploying, staff training, and worst of all- maintaining school computers for the little tots and only mildly tech orientated staff… well, you would see some real advantages to Chromebooks in the classroom.

  2. “which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life.”
    HAVE used. Now, many of those students using a Chromebook also have iPhones in their pockets and many have iPads at home. That is your REAL “brands for life”. And it shows in that Apple’s mobile devices are selling VERY well. Kids that used iPods and iPod mini’s and eventually iPod touches and iPhones end up with iPads and MAYBE a Mac. Maybe.

    And anyway, what you use in grade school has VERY little bearing to what you’ll use when you eventually get into the workplace. Think those DOS kids were prepared for that Windows desktop when they got a job? Think the kids that learned on OS 9 were well prepared when they got to the workforce and saw all OSX machines?

  3. 1- Apple could make a Thin Client device that works like a Mac without the cost and sell it to schools and enterprise.
    2- Apple sure did do a hell of a lot more stuff when they had a significantly smaller footprint. Apple has grown bloated and inefficient and is in serious danger of becoming a One Trick Pony.
    3- The Education Market has always been a prime target for any company Steve Jobs was involved with that made computers. Both at Apple and at NeXT Education Markets were among the first targets for sales lock in. When he returned to Apple, he went after the market again.
    4- Beyond computer sales, why Apple has not re-cast iTunes U into something along the lines of Coursera, EdX, etc is beyond me. Online education and continuing education is here to stay and Apple is letting others define the space. Apple should align with a consortium of high quality schools and act as an agent for online education with Apple providing the platform and distribution.

    As to Unions, there is nothing inherently wrong with a Union. The prime thing a Union gives workers is a contract to outline the employer-employee relationship.

    I am no fan of the NEA and AFT which are the two Clinton Worshipping Teacher Unions in the United States, but bashing all unions is not productive. If you hire good people to start and treat them well you will find it difficult for any union to organize. I find it interesting that most of the media pundits, think tank employees and others who bash Unions for a living all have contracts with their employers- they just do not want you to have one.

    1. The teachers’ unions are the NUMBER ONE reason why the U.S. public school system is failing our students each and every day. Steve Jobs was 100% right.

            1. do i detect botty writing under a pseudonym – or nom de plume – as the french would say?

              seem like, sound like, look like anyway.

            2. You have UNKNOWINGLY identified the EXACT problem with overall communication today that has been totally corrupted by politics.

              Who cares who said what and their political affiliation. What matters is CONTENT. Fact or fiction. In this case, the principal is correct …

            3. my reference was not aimed so much at the content of his remarks, but rather his customary and so easily recognizable antagonistic tone.

              i think it is what gamblers refer to as a “tell”

          1. Well gentlemen, let’s actually inject some facts:

            2015 Study in Indiana:

            ““voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.”

            2016 Study in New Orleans:

            “…the 50th percentile at baseline fell 24 percentile points below their control group counterparts in math after one year. By year 2, they were 13 percentile points below.”

            FYI, conducted by the Education Research for New Orleans (Jonathan Mills, Anna Egalite; published 22 February 2016)

            2016 Study in Ohio:

            “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools”

            FYI, conducted by a conservative think tank & proponent of school choice, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (David Figlio & Krzysztof Karbownik; July 2016).

            So the question then is – if public schools are so bad (irrespective of why), then why do these privatized schools do worse?

            Where “worse” is quantified with objective metrics, so there’s utterly no BS spin-doctoring possible to escape from.


            PS: and literally yesterday, four (4) private Charters received “shut down” notices from the State of NJ due to poor performance.

      1. Not so, it is hard to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. The private charters have shown themselves no better able to change outcomes from a given student population and I cannot name one unionized charter school.

        Finland went from worst to first in public education by going against the tide with fewer class hours, less structure, more teacher flexibility and much higher teacher pay. There is more fashion in American Education than substance. Whole language comes to mind, The New Math that took a whole sheet of paper to show what one can do in your head.

        If you have a problem with a Teachers Union, drive them to strike and replace them when they walk out. Unions are mostly toothless tigers in these United States. The problem far bigger than Teacher Unions are State Departments of Education and the US Department of Education.

        Want to improve outcomes? Throw out the textbooks. Make your kids read every day, write every day, research and make original presentations every day and do not grade on a curve. The first rule should be learn or leave- someone will have to drive the garbage truck and wash dishes at the local cafeteria. To be a disciple is to first have discipline- the inmates should not run the asylum. Kids need to be plainly told everyone has a boss so check your attitude at the door. Even the CEO of a company is accountable to the Board and the President to the voter/citizen.

        Touchy feely does not pay the rent and is no way to teach. The sooner parents and students realize the only option is between a rewarding and successful life and the life of a dependent gopher eating shit for a minimal existence. Nobody can issue you an education- you must earn and claim it yourself.

        The Unions may not be the solution, but they are not the central cause and problem.

      2. Exactly!

        U.S. spends 7X per student than the rest of the G8 nations. What do we get for our taxpayer dollars? The WORST student test scores.

        Lion share of the taxpayer dollars go to teacher salaries, thanks to the unions. NOT TO THE STUDENTS!

        Makes me mad … 😡

        1. Do you know how much teachers make in other “western”G8 countries? In Canada and Australia at least it is much more. That school that DeVos slammed 2 weeks back is an example of a school where teachers use their own money to buy things for the students. But if you can’t teach about evolution, climate change, etc and just boost the the friggin Football team and cheerleaders, then is no wonder that *some* US schools are failing the students and the country.

          1. “But if you can’t teach about evolution, climate change, etc and just boost the the friggin Football team and cheerleaders, then is no wonder that *some* US schools are failing the students and the country.”

            What? Schools are failing because they have football teams and cannot teach hot button topics both religious and political? That’s a good thing, although I get your sarcasm.

            Getting back to my main point. We pay too much in the U.S. on taxes when it comes to teachers. The result: We are getting too little in the way of returns and test scores are the worst.

            Throwing good money at a bad problem does little to solve the problem. And if you don’t increase the salary money yearly, the teacher’s union bullies taxpayers and calls strikes. Self-righteously parades in front of the cameras for their holier than thou profession, while not doing their job!

            Makes me mad … 😡

    2. 1- Yes, Apple could make cheap crap. They’ve always been able to make cheap crap. They don’t, generally, make cheap crap.
      2- Yes, they did a lot more, like desktops and laptops and… ummm, desktops and laptops and… ahhh… printers! Oh, and the eMate and a camera and the Newton… at least for a little while. Not sure I follow this part. The number of actually different products they make now (as opposed to different configurations of the same products) is pretty wide.
      3- I can totally see why going after schools was important back in the day. For those that couldn’t afford Apple’s computers (and didn’t even know anyone who had an Apple computer), that was an excellent way to introduce folks to it (many only ever used a Mac II, released 30 years ago today 🙂 or NeXT at a school). Now you’ve got the Apple Stores, you’ve got a large base that have OSX systems and MASSES AND MASSES of iOS devices. It’s just not as important to Apple of today.
      4- I’d guess it’s because Apple doesn’t want to or don’t think they can make money from iTunes U.

      1. A thin client does not have to be cheap. Inexpensive and Cheap are not irrevocably linked. Apple could make a lightweight Cloud centric device that looks and functions like a Mac at the UI level, but is essentially a thin client backed by servers

        1. Yes, Apple could have made their variant on the Chromebook many years ago- the writing was definitely on the wall. This is one stage that Google opened on and has stayed with, which is all it really takes for innovation to succeed, really. Apple dilly-dallied with the Education market (and the channel market, and the TV market) for too long without making any specific and direct moves, and, yeah, they’ve lost any chance of finding a space to occupy.

  4. There is no doubt Chromebook is extremely appealing to those in education decision-making positions. You can get five of them for the price of the cheapest Mac portable (or three for the price of the cheapest iPad Pro), and the utility of the device is quite limited.

    Most schools don’t really have the people who could devise the ways to effectively and completely use proper computers for education. Even the districts that are still buying Macs for the kids are mostly using them for Google Docs and similar web-based, cloud-based document workflow, in addition to some, also web-based, LMS, Blackboard/Schoology, or whatever other kind of education-oriented system they may have deployed. None of the functionality in these systems requires proper computing — all can be done directly in the browser, which is essentially what Chromebooks are.

    I can see, however, from my own children’s experience, how having your own Mac can allow (and inspire) more creative ways to learn. My older daughter has, on several occasions, used iMovie and Garageband to finish school projects (high school here). There are no meaningful comparable tools on Chromebooks. She didn’t need to use them (the project strictly did NOT require a video, or audio), and some slideshow (PPT / Keynote / Google Slides) would have got her a ‘complete’ for the project, but iMovie was there, she figured out how to use it and she turned in a multi-media presentation. And she was far from alone (school gives all kids a MBA to take home). When children have the tools, they tend to use them.

    The move away from Macs to Chromebooks is, from school’s perspective, easy. It is infinitely simpler to lock down a Chromebook; there are very few things kids can actually do on those Chromebooks, and even fewer that fall outside of the school work. With Macs, IT department has a headache how much to lock them down before they are crippled so much that they aren’t any better than Chromebooks, while preventing misuse, abuse or waste of time (on Minecraft, Facebook or similar).

    For all but the small number of forward-looking educational institutions, Chromebooks are the ideal solution and this is a battle Apple is not likely to win again.

  5. I brought this factoid up several months ago, along with other Android devices and cheap HP laptops are replacing Apple’s stuff by the truck load and I was called uninformed. I know that two school systems in my area (rural) have switched from iPads to Chromebooks and the other switched from Mac’s to HP’s last year. HP’s are on a leasing program that starts when the student is a sophomore and will be able to purchase the device for $50 when they graduate. Granted, being a Microsoft device, it will probably be outdated in three years, but so would a Mac.

  6. I think Google did a better job at first. They had software ready for teachers and administrators first. My big about Cromebooks is can you run it on a local server, or does it have to be Google’s. There is always the problem of network issues. I was around when computers first started getting into the classroom. My middle school, that had a lot of other problems, got TRS-80’s but did not have anyone teach the teachers how to use them. They sat locked in a closet except for when the Parents came. My high school got Apple ][s and had someone test what they could do then hired someone who knew computers to teach students. I heard something similar with iPads when they first came out on a radio show. You had failure school that did not research or teach teachers. They just got Pages, Keynote, and Numbers and gave them to the students. A successful school had bought software that was for education and got the teachers up to speed before giving them to the students. I think Google was able to handle schools needs better out of the box. However I think the iPad has more potential for students with something more than just a laptop.

    1. One of the largest misconceptions about the current Chromebooks is that they need to be connected in order to create and edit Google Apps documents (Docs/Sheets/Slides). They can be created and edited locally on the device and synced to the users’ Google Drive when back in connection with Google servers. This is great for schools that have network problems.

  7. I’ve noted before that perhaps Apple should build a simplified ‘A’ processor laptop for schools running a modified OSX (like Apple TV, iOS are modified versions). It can be cheap and since the OS is slightly different they will not cannibalize Mac sales so much.

    Teachers have said over and over what they want : cheap, administration control, easy maintenance (loose keyboards etc on expensive iPads with bad admin, multiuser control is not the answer for many schools regardless of how much Apple wants to flog it).

    1. This sounds a lot like the primary idea for netbooks. Probably fail in the same way with people asking why they should get one over paying just a bit more for a ‘full’ version. Apple is also very allergic to reducing their margin, about 30% average, on their products.

      1. 1) “people asking why they should get one over paying just a bit more for a ‘full’ version.”

        obviously the schools aren’t doing this as Apple’s share is plunging.

        2) Nobody really knows what an “A” processor laptop’s margins would be. You don’t.
        Apple makes the processors.

        Inexpensive does NOT automatically mean ‘low margins’.
        A $1 pop drink at a fast food joint is inexpensive, the margins are near 90%.

        Making a device fractionally more expensive than rivals can mean huge gains in Margins.
        For example company XYZ sells a device for $100. If his costs were 90 his margin is 10%.
        If Apple were to sell a device which has costs of 90 but at 120, all of a sudden the margins are about 30%.
        $100 vs 120 is not a lot of difference in sale price for a better brand.

        Apple is so profitable because they leverage assets like OSX, A chips, better Design, to charge a bit more plus their OPTIMIZATION of the SUPPLY CHAIN so their margins are in the 30-40% range vs rivals at 5-10% or even less.
        R&D for Apple ‘A’ device is not much as they ALREADY have OSX, A chips, a design team etc.

        3) STRATEGIC assets might not necessarily need to make huge profits to be important. The education market seems to be a strategic area.

        Tim Cook has spent about 100 BILLION (that is with a ‘B’) dollars to boost the stock in buybacks, dividends etc.
        One of the BIGGEST REASONS the stock is so low (even with recent rise it has a third of Google/Alphabet’s PE, i.e if it had Goog’s valuation Apple stock would be over 300 and not 100+) is that big investors say it’s a DANGEROUS ONE PRODUCT IPHONE company. Isn’t it CHEAPER to DIVERSIFY it’s product line into more stuff than spend tens of billions more in buybacks?

        contrary to some comments here I firmly believe having millions of students face to face with Apple devices help build future customers. That is why Jobs was so into the education market, all the way into building education only devices.

        1. please note also the fact that it was long time Ago when Apple said it couldn’t build a good netbook.

          Now they have POWERFUL A chips and the ability to make complex small devices like the Watch which are in the low hundreds in price yet high margins (Apple Watches I think are a heck a lot more complicated and harder to make due to miniaturization then ‘netbooks’) . They have now modified versions of OSX (apple TV OS, Watch OS, iOS etc) and they could easily make another that would run ‘A’ laptops without cannibalizing more expensive Macs.

        2. 1) not sure how you think the cheapest macbook or even iPad is “a bit more” in price over the average Chromebook. I’d peg that “a little more” value to about 20-40% higher price and obviously both Apple products are still more expensive. In the case of netbooks, those underpowered devices only cost a little less (within a $100) than getting a cheap full function laptop.

          2) No I don’t and neither do you. If they could build a price competitive device to the Chromebook with the A-series processor they would have already done so with the iPad. If you know of any A-series chip using macbook running OS X you’re welcome to inform us of such a device and at close to, or even 50% higher in price than the average Chromebook schools may actually consider it over the Chromebook.

          3) I will agree with you here. Strategic assets are important to consolidate the brand in the mind of the consumer, but Apple by recent actions does not seem to value it as you or I do. Discontinuing creation of Apple branded monitors and bringing great in-house Mac Applications down to iOS level Apps in feature sets could be taken as evidence to support that view.

          One could argue that the fear is that the majority of Apple’s revenue depends on the iPhone. This does not mean simply the sale of iPhone devices, but that without the iPhone a huge majority of the revenue that comes from ‘other’ services Apple offers almost make no sense. This is what I believe is what is meant by Apple is a “dangerous one product” company.

          I don’t think anyone disagrees with you about the importance of having millions of students face to face with Apple devices to help build future customers. Apple products are very good but for the budgets of many educational institutions the high price and increased level of maintenance are the deal breakers when compared to Chromebooks. Perhaps if Apple could offer educational pricing that allows iPads and macbooks to be acquired at close to Chromebook prices there will be a surge back to Apple products in schools.

          1. “ot sure how you think the cheapest macbook or even iPad is “a bit more” in price over the average Chromebook”

            pray tell where I said that?

            :If they could build a price competitive device to the Chromebook with the A-series processor they would have already done so with the iPad:”

            Maybe but we don’t know.
            How much does that high quality iPad screen cost?

            Looking at Apple’s CURRENT issues like Apple TV and it’s remote etc , sometimes I don’t think its so clear cut (that’s it’s just profits etc) , sometimes I think current Apple’s SVPs are DISTRACTED and UNFOCUSED. Apple TVs issue looks like lack of focus, the Education issues might also be another case of LACK Of ATTENTION rather than it being ‘not profitable’ . (Another Lack of attention example were teachers complaints about the ‘multiple user’ issues with iPad which were unanswered for years.)

            The reason I suggest ‘A’ books is that Apple can make it simpler than the MacBooks, it can like I said run a modified OSX with lower powered apps like iOS now with less drive, RAM etc requirements. A different OS won’t cannibalize mac sales so Even if it DID have lower margins. if it broke even maybe it’s worth it for Apple to retain a strategic hold on Education.

            I don’t have much issue with the rest of your post.
            I agree that iPhone makes so much together with the massive iPhone services revenues that it’s Apple’s main priority


            1. Sorry, perhaps I read too much into your comment “obviously the schools aren’t doing this as Apple’s share is plunging.” I assumed you meant that iPads and macbooks were close in price to average Chromebooks and schools were just not choosing the Apple products as the slightly more expensive “full” option.

              Well, not sure about pricing for that display but if the Insignia Android tablet I bought for less than $100 with IPS display and 2048×1536 resolution is any indicator, pretty inexpensive.

              I agree that it may be lack of attention that is contributing to Apple more quickly losing the education sector. I have heard that teachers had complained that Chromebooks did not have a rear camera so unlike iPads were unsuited for ‘field work’ that involved taking video or still shots. The Chromebook vendors seem to be very hungry for sales and this year’s Chromebook releases seem to uniformly add a rear camera. Higher end Chromebooks are adding Android App support and touchscreens as well.

              I agree that creating a lighter OS to use in a Chromebook competitor based on a A-series chip could be an option but somehow with Apple having difficulties converging iOS and OS X effectively, the effort to maintain yet another OS X variant may be a huge distraction for them. This is in contrast to MS which really only has one OS now that runs across all their devices and Google that only has Chrome OS that runs on top of other OSes in the Chrome browser or by itself in Chromebooks and Android.

  8. It happened here at our College! They are giving just about every student a Crapbook and it’s all based on money! Give them a cheap chromebook and then use VMWare to get a Windows Desktop and you’re done. No more labs to keep up with! Simply give the $200 cost to the student for the crapbook and it gets them through their school years and keep that rotation going. It’s cheaper for the school then there is no rotation of keeping labs with 30+ machines in them updated every 3-5 years or so. Money is spent on the backend on servers for VMware and is supposedly cheaper. I’m down to my last Mac lab of 33 and will probably lose it in July. Fun Fun! I warned Tim Cook about this when the Chromebooks first started out and they didn’t do anything! Probably thought they would go the way NetBooks did.

  9. Apple can’t win all battles, particularly the battles based mainly on the price. They may lose ground here, but they gain ground in companies (business). The latter brings more money and potentially more long-term commitment.

    1. If Chromebooks were total crap they would sell just as well as netbooks. Though cheap, the price for value derived from the device is what drives Chromebooks. Saying they’re chosen solely on price is a massive disservice to the educators trying to wisely spend their budget on the mix of device and support required to secure and maintain them.

  10. Don’t expect cheap Chrome junk to remain junk. They are merging Chrome with Android and once that happens it might become a decent product. Not immediately, but over time.

  11. I find the whole Chromebook thing interesting – does anybody remember the eMate? Same idea as the Chromebook, basically, but Google made it work.

    The school where I volunteer has a good mix of computers available. Lots of iMacs, lots of Dells, but every student also has a Chromebook to keep. And the Chromebook program works great for them. It’s where the students log in to Blackboard, where they create and file homework, where all their student email flows, everything.

    And it’s not a poor school by any stretch – Catholic, private, about $15K per year tuition. They love their Chromebooks.

  12. Googles MDM is also lightyears ahead of Apples…
    Managing a school wide fleet of Chromebooks being abused by kids is way easier then a fleet of iPads.. and cheaper too.


    1. Also if you are Google EDU Domain you are exempt from tracking data, and every person on the domain gets unlimited Google Drive for FREE.

      Apple would charge up the wazoo.. UP THE WAZOO.

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