How Apple blew it and lost the education market to Google

“Five years ago, Apple appeared to own the education market,” Shara Tibken writes for CNET. “Its iPad was selling like crazy, and Apple partnered with major publishers to digitize their textbooks. Many schools bought the tablet… Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, noted that ‘education is in Apple’s DNA’ …Then everything fell apart.”

“Fast-forward to today. Apple’s iPad sales fell for 13 quarters in a row before finally edging up again in mid-2017. The company has had success pushing its Swift Playgrounds coding software in schools, but digital textbooks didn’t exactly revolutionize education,” Tibken writes. “At the same time, Google’s Chromebook has taken over the US education market, with nearly three out of every five machines used in schools running the Chrome operating system in 2017, according to researcher Futuresource Consulting.”

“Apple still needs to figure out where its iPads fit as its computers become even more portable and its smartphones get bigger. So it’s taking another shot at education. The company on Tuesday will host an event at 10 a.m. CT (8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET) at the Lane Tech College Prep High School on Chicago’s north side,” Tibken writes. “Despite all of Apple’s efforts, Google and its Chromebook momentum will be tough to slow down. Even if Apple drops iPad pricing further, makes the Apple Pencil cheaper and introduces other changes, it could be hard to convince some schools to give its products another try. That’s especially true as teachers and students become more used to the Google technology they already have.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Tim Cook has many good qualities. But, in certain areas, an abundance of foresight doesn’t seem to be one of them.

When Apple lost Steve Jobs, they not only lost their drive for perfection*, they lost their crystal ball.

When you’ve sold yourself on the idea that the iPad is the future of personal computing by swallowing your own marketing hook, line, and sinker, and then fail to deliver on that promise for too long (skimping on RAM, offering underpowered multitasking, etc. – now, finally, largely corrected with iPad Pro), you neglect the horse that brung ya (Macintosh is his name) and shoot yourself in the foot (Q216 results, Mac sales unable to make up for the continued iPad sales decline, and Mac’s streak of outgrowing the PC market shattered)… A big picture revision and course correction would be well advised. — MacDailyNews, April 28, 2016

U.S. public schools are cheap, underfunded, and/or extremely shortsighted. There’s nothing at all new about that, unfortunately.MacDailyNews, December 23, 2015

Good luck clawing back what’s been rapidly squandered, Mr. Cook. — MacDailyNews, March 22, 2017

*Never realized, but a crucial goal nonetheless. Steve Jobs’ drive for perfection was what set Apple apart. Without it, things inevitably begin to fall apart.

Apple to host education event in Chicago on March 27th – March 16, 2018
Apple’s answer to cheap Chromebook test machines: The new $299 iPad, tailor-made for education – March 22, 2017
Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms to cheap Chromebooks – March 2, 2017
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. You are all asking the wrong question.

    The question really is: Does the iPad have enough utility… does it offer enough value for the education market?

    After years of working with the iPad and eBooks and being a power Mac User, my perspective is that the iPad on its own is not enough. Laptops in many respects have more value.

    The iPad is good at a very narrowly confined set of things. And that’s surfing the Web, reading, watching videos, and drawing.

    It’s terrible at multi-tasking and running any kind of full scale software.

    The iPad to me has more value with younger kids, but older students need a laptop.

    1. Current iPads (the $320 model) is plenty powerful enough for K-8 grades but…
      1. Needs a cheaper keyboard/protective case option from Apple!
      2. Needs more Swift-type apps–what a fantastic app for teaching code!
      3. Needs a multi-user mode!!!!! Why hasn’t this option been activated years ago—Would be extremely useful for schools and families!
      4. Needs enough RAM to multitask at least two apps.

      1. In other words, Synth, Apple needs to offer an inexpensive plastic MacBook, running OSX just like they used to, and price it so school boards can actually justify the investment.

        Let’s be clear: I would support my school district going 100% Windows before going 100% iOS. Because iOS is a horribly inadequate watered down thin client platform ill suited for many things, including the vast and changing needs of education.

        1. No iPad offers a decent keyboard, at any price. The clamshell iPad keyboards on the market are all miniaturized toy keyboards. They are more fragile than laptops too.

        2. Coding is done on a Mac, not on iOS. Data sharing on iOS is a pain in the ass.

        3. iOS and “the Cloud” is a cute rebranding of mainframe computing. There will never be multi-user mode because that is not how mainframe computing is intended to work. The iPad is a mostly a dumb terminal without a local file system, and that is how Apple intends to keep it. The Mac is a PERSONAL computer and can therefore be used to teach children how to CREATE things, including stuff for themselves.

        4. See #3. Dumb terminals will never have any more memory than Apple deems necessary to buffer whatever subscription media it pushes to the device. It’s not designed to run lots of programs at once, or grow as computing needs expand. Apple will also charge a king’s ransom for the privilege of having a bigger commodity RAM card installed. Then Apple goes a step further and makes SD cards, USB file transfer, or any fast local backups almost impossible. The purpose of a thin client is to force iCloud subscriptions. Few if any public school districts have the money for this.

        The answer is simple: Macs offer what schools and kids need. Not iOS. The problem is that Apple has intentionally priced Macs out of reach of entry level users. What an epic stupid strategic mistake.

        One more point: schools should not be buying every kid a comptuing device. It’s not practical. Likewise, primary schools should not be dictating that parents arm their kids with a specific specification of computer from a specific manufacturer with specific software installed as a prerequisite for the kid to be taught the basics.

        If Apple wants to provide educational computers for kids, they need to earn back the trust and consistent support that will make computing labs choose Apple again. Under Cook’s reign, this has obviously not been a priority. His only goal is to force every user into an iCloud subscription. That is objectionable in too many ways to list.

        1. I agree, but I think Apple needs to offer both. In my experience, iPads in a a protective case would be much better suited to K-8 graders, not a slimed-down MacBook.

        2. Chromebooks are not only affordable for education but with Android support in recent devices they can also take advantage of developing AND running the completed Apps on the Chromebook. Android unlike iOS has Apps that allow you to code AND compile Apps which can then be distributed to others/classmates.

          Agree with #3, iOS was designed to be single user with no consideration for being used by guests or mulitple user accounts. Basically 1 account per device which makes it more secure but in the education market where devices go missing or break, reissuing a replacement device quickly is an advantage. Or at least be able to ‘share’ a device till a replacement is available.

          I understand your point about schools not buying a device for each student, but in many mid to underprivileged schools, it is the only way to provide an ‘equal’ footing to all students in and out of the classroom. As such affordability of devices is tantamount. Chromebooks are the best fit for the niche since I doubt Apple will decide to lower mac prices low enough to compete for TCO and ease of management.

        3. Mike: I am a Mac user since 1988, now do html5 animations, image enhancement for the web and web development generally. I have some experience doing this same job on Windows, no chance I would continue if I had to be there.

          I also am contracted to a school district for an unrelated specialized teaching position.

          Over the last 10 years, I have gone through the Mac experiment, in fact bought one of the surplus MacBooks, still running great in spite of being 8 years old.

          Having said that: you are CORRECT ON EVERY SINGLE POINT.
          I don’t use them much, but the Dell laptops and desktops and the Chromebooks are not bad, easy to fix and replace if needed. It really does not happen often.

          They work just fine for what the students are actually doing. An exotic project requiring more is very rare. If students are doing something really high end, they are probably using their own MacBooks, MacBook Pro, etc. They have probably been doing that since the 6th grade-self taught at home, and are capable of higher level projects than the computer teachers.

          Everything of value in my work has been self taught, going back 30 years. Graphics, publishing, web stuff moves at a MUCH faster pace than the schools can keep up with anyway. The amount of time to change curriculum, COLLEGES INCLUDED, virtually guarantee that educational institutions will be 5 years behind the real world. It’s the medieval nature of colleges.

          if you look at what 3rd party Mac app developers are producing for that general industry, you should not expect to see that in schools. It would take teachers a year to learn anything in the apps that I use, and at that time, they would be at least one version behind. Colleges are even slower at adoption of new software because of the molasses pace that the decisions and purchases happen. They are mostly bogged down in the Adobe swamp because the name is well known, therefore it must be good.

          If you want a job in graphics, animation, high end images, get busy and train yourself. You need the silly degree to have the certificate on the wall, but otherwise…………use college as an expensive dating service.

        4. Yes and yes, and also, the chrome system itself is massively easier to administer than the iOS miasma that is apple’s configuration model. Perhaps they’ll be announcing a new management system that will actually not be such a trial.

        5. I don’t see what’s wrong with the strategy of computer labs filled with shared iMacs and each student getting a cheap iPad with a case to replace textbooks and notebooks.

          1. You’ve just run into the cost and management problem again if you buy iPads for every student in addition to providing a computer lab for shared iMacs. It’s fine for the schools and districts that could afford that route but the larger majority is not able to reasonably justify the significant cost difference in at-purchase, loss coverage, and TCO.

            That being said, I’m sure schools would not be opposed to the PTSA holding fundraisers to raise funds to get Apple HW and go the iPad/Mac route.

      1. MediaTek SoC! The thing is, running Chrome it probably isn’t half bad from a performance perspective. But those things are criminally thick and bulky.

        I don’t get bashing iPads as thin client systems when they are getting beat in the market by chrome books. Those are true thin clients – I don’t know if android app integration has been polished yet but android apps themselves were never rebuilt for larger screens, so the main value remains in running chrome.

        I think the iPads critical weakness in the education market last year was the lack of a 1st party keyboard/stand for the cheap version. Hopefully this event fixes that, but it appears they are going to add pencil support before the smart connector. Maybe that’s the right move; I haven’t thought about it as much as whichever manager @ Apple that made this decision has.

  2. I have been raising a flag regarding this issue for years…. it is very concerning!
    Ignoring Kids/teens of today is ignoring the adults of tomorrow… how can this be a wining strategy in any shape or form .. how could this have been allowed to happen .

    Schools.. where kids get familiar and attached to google.
    Gaming where they get familiar and attached to Windows.

    Both ignored by Apple ! (Or at least were up untill recently)

    What platform choice do you believe this generation will prefer to be on? The familiar Or the unfamiliar?

    Huge slipup/oversight by Apple management…. just like their negligence of Pro/power users

    Who is left ?

    It is very clear they are trying hard to correct all this slipups..
    I just hope its not too late. ?

  3. The iPad is the most unnecessary product ever built. Apple just needs to put out a $500 MacBook and call it a day. Give the damn thing a few ports and they’ll make money in droves

    1. But why make a “necessary” product that MIGHT make money in droves when you could continue making an “unnecessary” product that’s selling quite well already?

      I can think of ONE reason, and that’s “Just because it’s a bad idea, why not?”

      1. I don’t follow your twisted logic, but maybe my post above will better highlight what a hot mess iOS is as a weak attempt at an educational computing platform.

        Why make a necessary Mac product: because it just works.

        iOs isn’t an educational computing platform. it’s a cell phone and media distribution platform with massive functional gaps.

    2. I don’t know officially what the average life span of a school owned life span is, but I do know that if you drop one and it hits a corner of the case, it is done…..scrap. I went through two in less than a year and I paid for them.

      Family owned iPads last longer because the family pays for them, so there is some care involved.

      1. sorry; meant to say that I don’t know what the average life span of a school owned iPad (or any tablet) is….but drop it on the floor or even a desk and its probably dead.

        1. The same goes for any cheap Chromebook. You drop one of those and they’re done. The difference is that you can put a $30 3rd party case on an iPad and it will be largely drop proof and will still be more compact than many chrome books.

          1. Wouldn’t it be easier to just pay for a new cheap Chromebook since you can afford 2-3 of them vs the cheapest iPad? Account assignment is also much simpler with the Chromebook allowing the student to continue where they left off with significantly less delay than waiting for a replacement iPad.

  4. The iPad doesn’t have an answer to $158/unit and $35/unit to manage it from the cloud. 1:1 had never been cheaper and certainly never more accessible from Apple.

  5. They blew it in the same way they blew the Pro market… not enough money to be made there, especially when you making gobs and gobs of money WITHOUT the education market.

    Schools and governments don’t have money for school materials so they’re going for cheap. If it’s one thing Apple is not, it’s cheap.

    Plus, for every Chromebook in a school, there’s probably 6-10 iPhones/iPads in personal pockets, purses, and packs. Apple apparently knows how to focus their spending on where there’s an actual return on investment.

    1. To be fair to school districts and small business: they don’t buy based on unit cost alone. They typically buy a full contract that includes some kind of support, often with warranty or replacement insurance, etc all rolled in. If Apple’s stingy management would provide the level of service and support with a higher quality product, then school districts would very readily invest in the better value deal, even if it was more expensive or had a higher unit cost.

      1. In other words, ther’s no value in it for Apple. They aren’t going to make a cheap product AND they’re not going to offer a BETTER product than a crappy Chromebook at a LOWER cost just to say “Yay! We’re in the education market!” No business that has to report to shareholders is going to report on how badly they lost money in the education market.

        1. I agree with Mike. Apple pays money for vapid hipster advertising. Apple would get a better return from low margin educational computers. If Apple still had the superior GUI and product architecture that is. Lately Apple products have been just as hard to use as any other, not intuitive, and priced very high.

  6. i echo the sentiments of others here that I think education is an important market, not least that it introducers new users to Apple.

    My wife has a masters in education so i’ve an idea of some of the issues teachers find important with tech in schools. Teachers have said clearly they wanted control (some kind of admin hub) , multiple user ability for each device, keyboards as most assignments have lots of writing (and in not in pieces like attached keyboards which are hard to maintain) and cost. Apple has been remarkably tone deaf to all these concerns.

    Years back I suggested Apple should make a competitor to chrome books with a cheap laptop running a variant of MacOS (like iOS is a variant). As a variant it can run custom education apps and won’t cannibalize Macbook sales. But Cook had a stubborn “we don’t need PCs” mantra. it took as the article says over 10 straight quarters of falling IPad sales to make him do a bit for Macs now, I hope his narrow vision doesn’t continue to jinx the ed market.

  7. Huh? Chromebook’s are for loser’s, destined to driving for Uber Scab for a living, a school district giving any such crap to your kid doesn’t have a care about your kid. If you have smart kids get them on Swift and Xcode with a Mac they will thank you down the road.

  8. Glasgow, with 600,000 citizens, will roll out iPads to all its kids between 9 and 18 from May this year. One per child and one for adults except the office staff and janitors. My secondary school, with 1,700 on the roll, gets them from next May.

    The world of education is about to change out of all recognition, thanks to the extraordinary rise of artificial intelligence and the knowledge that 80% of our current jobs will be gone in ten years. Creativity and Sport will be our watchwords in the coming decade.

    Chromebooks are designed to turn you into a product for Google. Apple’s products are designed to turn you into mature, creative, independent, socially useful citizens of whatever country you inhabit.

    I cannot tell you what subjects I will be teaching in five year’s time, or even the methods I will be utilising. What I can tell you is that I am glad that I will be charting a course with Apple at my back, rather than a smiling bunch of con artists looking for ways to turn me and my pupils into drones – existing only to bolster the dividends of their shareholders.

  9. When our school district bought Chromebooks for everyone, I couldn’t believe it. They gave the teachers chromebooks first so we could have time to adjust to using them. I was curious and gave mine a try. Once. Then I turned it back in because I didn’t want to keep up with it.

    I couldn’t believe that our tech department was pushing so hard for us to adopt them. After all. Our tech people all buy Apple laptops for themselves.

    As time passed. The kids got their chromebooks and they hated them. They leaVe them all over campus. Students complain about not being able to do anything on them.

    I didn’t get the point. . They can word process but not print. They can access very restricted YouTube. Send email. Buy then state testing time rolled around. Turns out, they work great as bubble sheets. We were required to buy them to streamline our testing. Chrome books were the cheapest solution to that mandate. Everything else was just an effort to justify the purchase and to attempt to make it look like there was value beyond test taking.

    People always think that the education market is like a Trojan horse into a young adults future purchases but somehow I don’t think that’s the case with these chromebooks. The kids that have iPhones. They understand Apple and know you can do more with Apple.

    Maybe Apple can and will compete in this market. But it truly is bottom feeder type stuff. It’s the kind of market that could make future purchasers hate your brand if you aren’t careful. The value of Apple products is that you can do seemingly limitless things with ease.

    This new education market isn’t the same as it used to be. Not just because Apple left it. It left Apple and went to a place Apple probably doesn’t need to go, a limited place of singular utility. Of disposibility. And the most jaded user base you can imagine by virtue of what they are asked to use the machines for.

    1. Why couldn’t you print? It sounds more like your IT personnel didn’t set up the cloud print function on your Chromebooks and register your printers to accept print jobs.

      Chromebooks are browser based for a reason. Google (and recently Apple evidenced by their strong push for iCloud) has recognized that the cloud is where computing is going. I believe even Steve Jobs imagined the PostPC era being one where HW was simply a gateway. Yes there is still value in having thicker clients but more and more is being done in the cloud for disaster recovery reasons. It is definitely less easy to ‘lose’ homework in a Google Classroom account than on iPads where your work is practically stored solely on your device till you submit it.

      1. It could be something that the tech department did to prohibit printing. My whole point was. Those machines are more geared to simple multiple choice type responses than real work. I’m not saying that an iPad without a keyboard is much better. But a real computer is better and the iPad with the pen is better at art and a lot of other things. If Apple can deliver a MacBook that can still allow you to be creative and actually create and deliver. That might be worth going after. But why be just an answer bubble machine for that money with no margin. And no matter what apps you think are available. There is zero like garage band. Or iMovie or photoshop. Or cad programs. Not real programs. Art rage? I don’t know. And yes you can try and figure out uses but that’s like squeezing a dry lemon for juice.

        And the cloud is not the best way to run apps. Otherwise Apple would never have created the App Store. They had web apps at the start and they weren’t great

        1. You may be right about something that the tech department did prohibit printing.

          I can’t tell you in the last 5 years how many reams of paper went through the printer in my room and you could never tell where the print came from in the building, could not take the time to trace it since I was busy, so after a day or so the paper went in the trash.

          What was happening was that students would just hit print without ever checking to see what printer they were connected to. Sometimes jobs would be printed to 3 or 4 rooms until the students would finally wake up to the fact that they printed to the wrong room. Every room had signs designating the printers in that room, but you have to be willing to read and act on that.

          Dittos on the cloud comment, Lord help us if it is the future, nothing will get done until the day AFTER you need it. I also do web development, if a customer requires that a job needs to be done on the cloud vs an upload from my hard drives, all bets are off and its strictly dollars per hour with no guarantee of how many hours the project will take to complete.

          1. I will agree with you that the current state of the cloud does not lend itself to ‘heavy’ work. My point is that in the education market the majority of student ‘work’ will end up being one or two documents (document, presentation, spreadsheet, etc.) at any point in time. Having it synced to the cloud automatically while working is a very big plus for both student and teacher.

            In the meantime data service providers continue to work on faster more stable connections to enable future cloud-based work environments. Chromebooks are already designed for that environment, iPads are not. Seems more future proof to me.

        2. I don’t disagree that a real computer would be better, but that once again runs into the cost problem and inability to scale to the 1:1 mandate being placed on many schools.

          When Apple first had web apps, those apps did not have the advantages Web Apps do if you built them today. That was part of the reason for remaining with ‘native’ Apps where you could rely on stability. As data connections become more or less stable similar to other utilities, I believe there will be a resurgence of Web-based work/study environments.

    2. My kids said the same things – their school has Chromebooks available but they view them as junk. Cheap, plasticky, and very limited. They access the Google apps and homework from their Apple devices.

      For a lot of these students, the Chromebooks are a perverse advertisement for Apple.

  10. It isn’t that Apple blew it. For one thing, the value of this technology in the classroom is spurious. Putting that to one side, though, Google bribed their way in, just like Microsoft did in the 90s.

    1. Bribery at this scale can only go so far. Many school districts have actually tried both iPads and Chromebooks, and for their purposes the Chromebooks were a better fit and value for their investment.

      If you believe cost is the only barrier preventing a school from providing iPads vs Chromebooks maybe it’s time parents encouraged and assisted their PTSA to raise funds to offset the cost of going Apple’s route.

  11. I don’t think the people who are berating Apple for high costs have the full picture. School costs will fall rapidly if we properly embrace the information age. I have just finished the English folios for my Senior pupils. The exam board (SQA) sends us a digital template which the kids type on or paste their work into. We then have to print it off, send all the work to the SQA – who then scan it, so that it can be emailed to the markers! Hundreds of thousands of folios across Scotland for Nat 5 and Higher which could be emailed as a secure pdf.

    If all the kids have iPads, my paper consumption for marking their work, printing it off, printing off worksheets – will go from tens of thousands of sheets to zero. Most of the kids have iPhones and most of them do not have the slightest idea that they could have had an iCloud email address (most of them have gmail for their phone id) or that they can use Pages for free. That is the sort of basic education the pupils need, to make Glasgow’s venture successful.

        1. If you use Google suite, yes, obviously. If you use Chromebooks with any of a number of remote desktop companies, Citrix for example, it is a very affordable and secure way to give telecommuting and sales personnel a device to use for remote login w/o compromising your Enterprise data.

          Otherwise as a ‘normal’ user you are free to use any services you can normally subscribe to and use via browser.

  12. Google understood that it’s not just devices that you have to make at an attractive price point – you have to develop effective management tools that makes it easy for teachers in the classroom. IT admins love it because they are easier to support and I surmise that they can open up a Chromebook and perform some light servicing whereas Apple products are black boxes.

    Apple sold their Powerschool division to Pearson and they tend to market higher quality products and at or near premium prices. This makes it hard for schools to justify.

    Not to mention that the fact that students can do so much more on a Mac notebook as opposed to a Chromebook also means management nightmares as well. Perhaps if MacBook Airs could be offered for $500, they already give away a much more polished productivity suite than Google apps, throw in some iCloud storage and provide an easy way for teachers to manage, create assignments, score homework and tests, they could have something.

    Apple will have to perform the duties of integrating a vertical solution.

  13. My nephew’s school district went with Chromebooks after dumping Apple’s for a few years with bargain basement PC laptops. Main reason, costs. Google supplies a very cheap cloud based system without the headaches of PC management or the Apple price tag. Of course with the caveat that Google is getting all sorts of sellable info from the students. The school never repairs Chromebooks, they send them in for recycling (whatever that actually is) and just gives the kids new ones. Are they better systems in the long run? Well, my nephew definitely likes his iPad better than the Chromebook or the older PC laptop. My sister who works in the district as a sub, only has a slightly better opinion of the Chromebooks. She finds Apple based schools out of that district easier to work the computers. Of course it also depends on the IT department at each school. The school however isn’t going to give out tablets, Android or IOS when there are cheap plastic Chromebooks around. And it’s a rich district not poor.

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